War deaths drops from thousands to less than a dozen, but can war truly ever be perfect?
A council of nations leads the world in terms of law and economics urging peace and harmony among all people, yet it's been deemed impossible for a perfect coexistence to be. War is a part of human nature, and in an effort to soften the sharp edges of this conflict the council has changed it's face.|
The five major nations of Skyland, Ultega, Rujin, Ahmas, and Unis represent themselves in war with two teams of two soldiers.
Every ten years a war is waged using their former capitols burned down at the founding of the United Nations Council.
Even though only ten people participate to give their lives to save the thousands that would die otherwise; their lives belong to them. How can war be perfect if it is still war?
|It was Sunday again, and that meant it was an early day. Seral ran a hand through his thick freshly trimmed and showered brown hair as he thundered heavy footed down the stairs. For someone who wasn't quite six feet tall and narrowly crested one-hundred-fifty pounds he sounded like an elephant on stairs.|
Out of habit he'd left his cell on the table downstairs. Spotting it with the anticipated blue glow on the first screen he snatched it up eagerly spotting a large "4 New Voicemail". Opening the small silver phone he quickly checked the potential job opportunities with a hopeful smile on his young scruffy face. It wasn't the first time he'd forgotten to shave.
"Seral, it's mom..." came a familiar voice from the first mail. Hitting the magical number seven Seral deleted it. Another "Why don't you have a job" message was not what he wanted to hear.
Next NEW message.
"Hey son-," He hit seven again to delete it.
"Dammit dad," Seral cursed at his parents who were still two cities east. "I know, I need a job to get ahead in life, I have a plan already!"
Next NEW message.
"Hello Mr. Arkeit, this is Jan Lambert from Advantage Solutions." came a semi-familiar voice. Seral's face lit up. "I'm sorry to inform you that we will moving forward with your employment at this time. We appreciate-" Seven. Seral frowned. Of course not. Of course they weren't moving forward with his employment. That would be FAR too convenient. One more...
Last NEW disappointment.
"Mr. Arkeit this is Brian Engle with Fault Magazine. Unfortunately we can't hire you right now. The position you applied for had been filled from inside the company..."
"Well give me the position of the guy who filled it! Oh come on!" Seral shouted. Seven. Fucking seven.
No NEW messages.
Excitement turned to anger, Seral tossed his phone down on his worn cushioned chair. All the profanity in the world didn't due his stress justice. Making his way slowly upstairs he ran his hand through his hair again, this time in frustration. Finding himself in front of the mirror in his room he stared into his own green eyes deeply.
"What the hell are you going to do?" His savings were dwindling and work was not as easy to find as he'd hoped. An on the job accident had shown his bosses exactly what he'd tried to hide from people most of his life. Bringing his hand up staring at it's creases Seral remembered it clearly. The night his misfortune began. He'd had a cushy job working as an assistant to the editor of a comedy article that ran in the local paper "Aevan City News". Of all the stupid things to happen with him in the break room the damn microwave exploded in his face. When his face was perfectly fine after about ten minutes everyone knew he'd make a perfect soldier. A special. Seral sighed clenching his fist tightly.
The UNC -United Nations (World) Council had designated any people with these "biologically indistinguishable high performance traits" as 'specials'.
In most nations, during a draft a special would be drafted the instant they became known, and if ANYONE found out you were a special, they'd more than likely let some authority figure know directly or inadvertently. Luckily, Skyland wad different than other nations in the fact that there was no draft only enlisting. Specials were rare and so were highly encouraged to enlist, but most people were relatively understanding when someone didn't want the secret out. For Seral, this gave him three days to decide. This meant that your job fires you because their insurance company refuses to insure you because you 'are overqualified' (read: don't need insurance). If you can't be insured they can't let you return to work. Fired.
The face in his mirror stared back at him with anxious uncertainty. "Seral, what are you going to do with yourself?" he asked reminding himself of his father immediately. Fuck this. Why should he sit there like an idiot and beat himself up? Aevan was a big city, and just because he'd been on the job hunt for three weeks didn't mean he was out of options. He had two days...then what?
Turning away from the mirror Seral got dressed in his usual job hunting wear. A black suit and white button up with black slacks, his only pair of black socks, and his not-quite-worn-in pair of dress shoes. Where was his damn tie? Seral delved through his closet pulling away old shirt and boxes of things he'd probably never wear again. His tie must have fallen somewhere back behind this crap.
Two days. That's when the enlisting was cut off and the selections made. In other countries all draftees would be at a base in three days, and here in Skyland it was the same, but for the fact that they had to sift through the applicants. Everyone else was on a waiting list for the Skyland SDF. He needed assurance of a job by tomorrow or else...
"Will I really enlist?" he asked himself as he continued digging for this tie. Faintly, he heard his cell phone downstairs with the familiar driving guitar riffs of his favorite band.
"Awe, dammit," he complained. Of course it rang when he was elbow deep in useless stuff. Boxes tumbled and clothes fell as he sprang from the small cabinet of a room and fell with all the grace of a one-legged drunk down the stairs. Had it not been for his somewhat heightened reflexes as a special grabbing the rail would be impossible. Instead when he reached out he simply punched the wooden railing out of bad luck and grabbed nothing continuing his descent. Landing wasn't so bad since he only had to worry about what landed first. In this case it was his face. Tile didn't give way so the broken nose and busted lip weren't as bad as what he presumed was a cracked orbital bone above his eye. Sucking in a good amount of hate filled air, Seral clenched his jaw and closed his left eye. He grabbed the phone from the chair, "SHIT!" he screamed in pain before picking up the phone and smiling.
"Seral Arkheit, how can I help you?" he answered cheerfully. Blood trickled into his eye stinging a bit. The pain in his face pulsed intensely but was already beginning to fade a bit.
"Hello Mr. Arkheit. This is-"
"Bill Engle from Fault Magazine. I recognize your voice," Seral cut him off. He started pacing. What was this? Bill chuckled,
"Ah you got my message huh? Well, actually I was wondering if you wanted to come in for a second interview today. I apologize for the short notice, but we reviewed the applications and the interview data. Once the editor saw it he wanted us to bring you back in." Seral didn't speak for a moment.
"Wha-really? Um, yes! Sure, what time?" he asked excitedly grabbing his notepad off of the table and flipping past the four pages of crossed out prospects.
"Can you make it at eleven?" asked Engle. Seral quickly crossed out his interview with a electronics company customer service position.
"Sure thing!" he cheered.
"Good! Glad we could work that out Mr. Arkheit! It'll be in the same building as your last interview. You'll go to the third floor and it'll be room one-eleven." Scribbling down the information furiously Seral couldn't help but smile as the cut on his lip scabbed over and the bone in his nose straightened.
"Yes, and thank you for the opportunity Mr. Engle. Thank you very much!"
"And thank you, have a nice day." They hung up. A relief like cool water submerged him for a moment. It was much better this way. Why should he even think about enlisting for that toy war? It was so foolish. For honor? For glory? This made no sense to him. In history war was always displayed through might and strategy. To cause a nation to submit through force. If it's not truly through force how can it be a war? How can it really enforce anything? Why -in other words- is it necessary? Why would he participate in something like that? For money? Seral knew he wasn't fit to enlist. The opinionated of his sway weren't suited for military life. The wounds on his face closed, and he went back upstairs to wash his face and find that blasted tie.
Sometimes he couldn't help but laugh. This United Nations World Council and the joke they represented were a continuing source of entertainment and loathing for Nicholas. This lavish room with long tables of food that would likely be thrown out as most of it would not be eaten was full of cous cous and caviar and the like. Nicholas would have none of it. Sitting across from the daughter of former Ultega Representative Albert Ross's good friend Jacob Wellington, Nicholas found himself showing a bit of his distaste for these places. Displeasure in the tone of his body language ended quickly as Jacob ambled over with champagne in hand and goofy smile on his goofy face.
"Saint Nick," he hooted looking straight at Nicholas. It's what they always called him. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he didn't partake in any vice of any kind. It was a widely held belief in the inner workings of politicians that EVERYONE had a vice. These idiots would argue that even God had some. All of them aside from Amin. Amin stood at six feet four inches tall and was racked with muscle. A quiet man, but he loved the ladies (virgins in particular) a bit too much. Amin Benayah was his name. He was forty-four years old and hadn't trusted Nicholas at all till just recently. Most of these old men were of high distrust as Nicholas was young and different. He almost smiled at the thought of their distrust. It was all for the wrong reasons.
Most of them were afraid he may slip up on their delicate balance of things and forfeit their way of life for a while. In truth they had much better reasons to be suspicious, but of course they didn't know what it was.
He had, in fact; killed Albert Ross.
"Saint Nick!" Jacob called again holding the champagne in his face. Nick looked up at it and narrowed his eyes.
"Jake, you know I don't partake. Please..." he said politely pushing the drink away from his face. Jake just grinned widely patting Nicholas on the back.
"Good ol' Nick! You sure you're from Ultega?" he joked. Beer and alcohol was something of a pastime in the eastern states of Ultega.
"West Ultega dear Jake. West." Nicholas replied with a smile. Jake looked at his daughter and chuckled.
"Lydia honey, do you mind grabbing your father a few of those little bacon wrapped scallops?" he asked. Lydia smiled at him and stood. Her dress was a deep crimson that wrapped velvet around her body. She was beautiful with her sapphire earrings dangling from her fair skinned ears beneath that dark auburn hair of her. She was fond of Nicholas, but it was last on his list of important things to do. Nothing ruined well laid plans like getting laid.
"Of course daddy," she replied walking over to the table. Jake sat down in her seat leaning forward to meet Nick's eyes.
"Hayes," he said dripping with unsavory disposition. Hayes was the head of the UNC, and was the second one that came from Skyland. It was unlikely they'd win this year with Amin the head of Ahmas this year and Yoshimori the head of Rujin. Their styles clashed too much, and those two nations had picked up very good ways of killing Skylians. Skyland soldiers were a little arrogant, but effective. The real dangers were the guerrilla experts from Unis. Though Nicholas though Unis was a joke, their soldiers were always something to be reckoned with. Though they'd never won the head seat at Council, it could be a relatively unsavory prospect. Enough hostility had built up over the years that they could do some real damage.
All these nations had their own agendas of course, but Skyland's Albert Hayes was a slippery catch. There was no profiler in existence that could see through his perfect facade of the straight toothed, blue-eyed, brown well kempt-haired, white, ideologist. His words and gestures belied his methods. He wasn't the only one, just the only one people really bothered to look at. In truth, none of these men were fit to be head of Council. In fact, Nicholas believed that Council shouldn't exist. Still, it did, but if he had anything to do with the coming few months of war (and he most certainly would) things would be different by the end of it.
"Hayes is just awful sometimes. I don't like his face." Jacob growled glaring over at the smiling man who was standing in the middle of the room talking to Rujin's Yoshimori Tojo and two of the five representatives from the countries of Unis. "Did you know he has a list?" Nicholas took a drink from his glass, his steel tinted silver eyes piercing the grudge in Jake's eyes.
"Does he?" asked Nick curiously. Jake smiled at him.
"That he does, and guess what clever bastard got a good enough look at it to get all the info? I suspect our fearless representative would like to know what his enemy knows?" Enemy was not the word Nicholas would use for Albert Hayes. Antagonist perhaps, but enemy was a word for the battlefield. There wasn't a battlefield left in this poor excuse for a world anymore.
"You're correct." replied Nicholas pushing a strand of his dark blonde hair from his face. The rest was pulled back into a relatively small ponytail for the time being. Jacob smiled pulling the paper out from his jacket and handing it to Nick as Lydia came back with a small plate for her father giving him a somewhat irritated look as he took it and looked up at her.
"Thanks darling." he said taking one of the bacon wrapped scallops to his mouth instantly watching for Nick's reaction to the paper. It was less than extravagant. He was not so foolish to dive into something like that in the middle of a room full of people with their own agendas. The paper went stuffed into his own jacket. Jacob almost pouted. Until Lydia cleared her throat loudly at her father. He looked at her confused for a moment before realizing she wanted her seat back.
She sat across from him again while her father went to fill his glass again. Lydia smiled at him. "Was he bothering you?" she asked in her sweet voice. Nick gave his always fake smile even though he genuinely liked this girl.
"Of course not. Old Jacob is just himself is all. I suppose he thinks the heavily buttered and seasoned scallop somehow cancels out the bacon on those hors d'oeuvres." he joked. Lydia chuckled.
"Father is in some...relative need of exercise and proper dieting." she replied still smiling at him. She crossed her legs and leaned forward a bit exposing just a bit more of her scarce cleavage. "I'm sorry Nicholas." Lydia said looking him in the eye.
"For what exactly?" he asked. She shook her head.
"I know you don't like these little parties and such. You much more a man of action. Mysterious action, but action nonetheless." She was right. So right in fact that for a moment Nick thought she may be onto him, but the truth was much simpler. She knew him. Lydia had always really wanted to know him, and thus she did. Not like these idiots around him knew him. Not in records and profiling, but in earnest and curiosity. She'd been sweet on him for a few years now, yet nothing had happened between them. Lydia was something good. Something truly good and even amidst this blasphemy of politics maintained that. Nicholas wanted nothing to do with it, but if he had one vice or just a weakness to be more precise. It was her attention. If he didn't get himself killed one day she may be Mrs. Lydia Haldor, but the chances were slim things would work out that way.
His room was a great comfort now. No more need for vigilance or to hold a mask in front of his face. He was alone finally. Nicholas pulled the jacket off and hung it up slipping the paper from it's inner pocket. It was a list indeed. One of all the known specials. There was only one known special listed for Ahmas.
Height: 5' 8" 173cm
Weight: 170 lbs 77kg
Type: Rebirth "Immortal"
It was bullshit. Amin was hiding something, but that's just what Nicholas had predicted. He was crafty.
There were a few more listed. It couldn't be the whole list like Jacob had bragged. He saw an electronics engineer from Unis who was an Instant, and a couple others from the region. One was a butcher with the Adrenaline ability and the other was a police officer with Omniscience. Not a bad selection. Rujin had two Rebirths and an Instant listed. Skyland wasn't on the list. Chances were good Hayes didn't want his own nations info on the same sheet in case of something like this. There was one listing on here that worried him. Jake Sorek Adalwulf from Ultega.
"Dammit," Nicholas cursed. Jake wasn't listed in their archives. He was supposed to be a secret. That wasn't good. Not only did it mean Hayes had a source in Nick's nation, it meant he knew they were keeping secrets. Not to mention it meant Ahmas was better at keeping secrets than him. Jake was a lunatic, and may or may not end up in the war. It was something of a wish of Nicholas's that he didn't, but these kinds of conflicts rarely went all as planned. "Oh well. Three days until show time starts. I'll be ready."
|Avner Tyhrac, immortal, did not like the sweat that poured into his eyes and stung like a djinn’s jism, but he dared not move a muscle—or, Hadam’s truth, even to blink—lest he give himself away. Around him, the twisting and eddying golden sands of the desert conspired enough as it was to reveal his hiding place, and he dared not let the bitch find him this time. She moved like the wind, upon you before you could even see her, and without even the slightest rustling of the leaves or whirl of sand as warning. She simply came upon you, a force of nature, an unnatural demon spawned in Sammael’s Pit for nothing more than to fight. And then she killed you.|
That she was his ally meant nothing to Avner. And it certainly seemed to mean nothing to her, if these training exercises had been proof of anything. She’d killed him despite being allied to his cause, despite being trained from birth (as he had, he reminded himself) to serve God as one truly descended of Hadam, the first man and Patriarch of their people.
She believed as he did, as all the people of what was now the state of Ninavah believed, the people of the desert tribes converted long ago into the true and most complete faith of El-olam, the everlasting God of the sand peoples. Brought forth by winged heralds to the prophet Moham, it taught togetherness and love, the path of the Al-Salam. Moham preached peace to the tribes and brought them together, though truth be told, it had taken much longer for the peoples of Ahmas to come together into a single nation.
And a world of peace certainly seemed no closer, or Avner would not now be lying in the desert, hands grasping the curved sword of his people, hiding from the bitch woman of the Pit.
Still as an untouched pond, Avner waited for her to find him.
It had been close to three days since he’d eaten and his only liquid came from the sweat that managed to by pass his eyes and drip to his cracked lips. Avner did not worry about death from exposure, or even of starvation; his body would kick into gear and revive him if it ever came to that. But the stillness, the ache of his muscles as the yearned to move and stretch, to bring battle to his enemies for the might of El-olam, that was not the death he wanted. To be found here in this pit he’d dug for himself, robes sand colored and stained with urine, a disgrace to his tribe and to Moham himself—that was the death that would come for him, in the end.
There was no question that she would find him. She always found him, the demon. When last they fought, she’d split his skull with her scimitar, and the pain had been unbearable until, at last, his special ability had brought him into the sleep of healing. Before that, she’d stabbed him through the heart, in the gut, in every way she could conceivably kill him that wouldn’t prevent his gift from asserting himself. For that, he supposed, he should be glad—she was no traitor, and always respected the privacy he required for healing. Hell, she was the only one who knew his preference for mint tea, goat’s cheese, and lamb upon reawakening, and he had yet to wake without a tray resting beside his bed.
The tea was always steaming, too, as if she knew precisely when he would awaken.
She probably did. They made sure that she knew everything about Specials; had introduced her to every kind, even allowed her to kill a few who’d proven less-than-willing to serve God and their nation. And she knew more about war and history than anyone Avner had ever met.
President Benayah had gotten to her young, Avner knew, from before her third birthday. Three was sacred to El-olam, for the three prophets that He had sent to them: Avrahim, Yeshu, and Moham. She was his niece, if Avner’s memory served (which it usually did in these details, when they related to the demon-bitch), taken from her home when her parents died in a rare and highly illegal blood feud. They’d been innocent, had the girl’s parents, and had not deserved their death.
Avner supposed the girl didn’t deserve the punishment she’d gotten, either.
From three, she had been trained to be who she was now: the perfect soldier. Amin had taken a risk—there was no history of Special blood in her side of the clan—but felt that, even without a gift, he could train her to rival even the strongest of Specials. She was baptized as a Hashaseen, the warrior priests of Moham, the historical defenders of Salamism, who’d fallen into disgrace with the unification of Ahmas and found a revival in her. Faith, Discipline, and Strength, their motto that now found an embodiment in a woman of only twenty-three summers.
The demon-bitch of Ahmas. Whom Avner could not hate quite so much as he wanted to, and pitied far more than he had intended.
He had approached her once, for she was beautiful, and she had broken his arm, thinking his advances a trick of the enemy—a test she had not been warned of. The healer had had to be called, for his kind could only heal when his life was at risk, and he had not approached her again. His prick still grew hard at the thought of seeing what lay beneath her floating silks, but he did no more than dream of her and find a whore to wear her face in his mind’s eye.
Avner told no one this, of course, lest they believe his distaste stem from his spurned advances. They would question his manhood, to be so dominated by a woman, and so easily tempted from the grace of El-olam. But it was just as likely that most of the men shared that secret, unwilling and unable to explain the allure of a woman so deadly and so unlike a woman should be. He thought he knew, of course, did Avner, why they all wanted her. To take her, to make her squirm and moan, to hear her cry out their name as they thrust into and out of her, bringing her to repletion, would be to reclaim some of the manhood they lost every time she beat them in the manly arts.
To remind themselves that it was they who were the men, and not she.
That was not to say she was as a man in form. She was a veritable Eav, the temptress of the Garden, who lead Hadam to Fall with her manifold charms. Even the loose folds of her warrior’s tunic could not hide the curve of her breast and the shapeliness of her hips. And the mask of her headdress could not hide the haughty arch of her brow or the rarest emerald of her eyes-that-missed-nothing. Avner had seen her once without her mask, and he cherished that memory, using it to goad himself forward when no whore was to be had.
She should be a wife somewhere, Avner thought, to a lucky man, who would have more sons than he knew what to do with because he would not bear to miss a night with his luscious wife. She should not be a warrior priest, a woman in a man’s world, trained to be an assassin for God. And yet she was, and she was looking for him now in the desert, searching for him so that she could kill him.
They spared nothing in her training, the demon-bitch. And when Avner had finished his training, he had begun training as her partner. What this meant was uncomfortable nights sharing a campsite as they simulated the experience on Pangaea, unable to touch her, and days fighting alongside one another and against the other teams that would represent Ahmas in the next war. Occasionally, it meant days like this, waiting for her to stalk him, to find him and give him no chance to fight back as she killed him.
Avner had yet to get away from her. The demon-bitch.
A cloud passed over his hold, welcome relief from the sun. The day had dawned bright and hot, as it always did in the desert, with only a few creampuff clouds to occasionally lessen the sun’s oppressive stare. Avner sighed inaudibly, but did not allow himself to move. She would find him if he moved even the littlest bit.
Then there was a sharp pain as a knife pressed through his back and into his heart. No sound, no warning, just the excruciating feeling of death as Avner felt himself dying.
“I will see you when you wake, Avner Tyhrac,” came a voice as soft as the cloud she had hidden her shadow under. “Sleep now.”
Damn her, Avner thought as he bled his way into unconsciousness. Damn the demon-bitch of the Pit.
Damn you, Ashara.
“You have awoken.” Ashara knew the precise moment that Avner had regained consciousness. His breathing changed, and the pumping in his neck had sped up, revealing that the blood in his heart was moving faster. There were no secrets for her, not when it came to the human body. Not even the Specials could hide from her, though she could certainly hide from them.
She had learned to dampen her own bio-current to that of an ordinary mammal and thus fool an Omniscient. And she had learned to think one thing and do another so convincingly that she had removed the hand from a Psychic soldier. It had taken a Medic the better part of a weak to re-grow the limb and the soldier had never again spoken to her. These skills she had mastered before ever the blood flowed between her legs with the moon and before the eyes of the men had turned predatory and aroused.
For an Energy soldier, she had learned to make the kill fast, and never to engage unless absolutely necessary. She’d learned that even the most highly trained Awareness soldier could be worn down—she could toy with them, play with them, and then finally kill them when their bodies finally gave out. They would see the attack coming, but their muscles would not move to intercept the blow.
Removing the limbs and head of an Immortal had worked before, though it took time to scatter the parts and remove enough that even their gift could not bring life back to his bearer. Exploding powder worked just fine, but Ashara believed that such tactics were only to be used when absolutely necessary. She’d learned to fight with guns because it was necessary, and to lob a hand grenade to bring confusion to a camp, but these were not her weapons and she was loath to use them. Only if she believed herself lost without them did she ever resort to their use.
Quick deaths for both Disrupt and Rush soldiers, and done from a distance to prevent their gifts from taking affect. Under no circumstances was she allowed to engage either of these types of solders—she was to allow her partner, Avner, to deal with those. As for Instant and Regen soldiers, an arrow to the heart worked as well for those as for the Disrupt and Rush, and Ashara was more deadly with a bow than any other in living memory.
There was a tactic for every type of Special, a way of beating them all. She had been three when this had first been told to her. She had been twenty-three when they’d finally decided she was worthy enough to fight for Ahmas in the war.
President Amin, her maternal uncle, had given her to the Hashaseen Priests. He’d not known she would become a Special, but he was determined that Ahmas would win a great war, would overthrow Skyland and rule the UNC. A perfect soldier, he’d believed, would win it for them. And who better than the blood of the President himself?
And so her life had become Faith. It had become Discipline. And it had become Strength.
He’d come to see her when she turned thirteen, when she’d mastered the first and most difficult of the skills she’d needed to learn. And his pupils had dilated at the sight of her as she performed each technique. His breath had quickened, his muscles tightened. Ashara knew now what those signs portended, knew that her own uncle, her own blood, had desired her in his bed. Then, when he’d asked her if she was a good girl, or if she had talked to the boys at the temple, she’d thought him being kindly, of caring for her as befitted a proper uncle.
Later, when he’d pressed into her, when she’d stretched and torn and bled to accommodate his girth within her, she’d cried and screamed. She had felt violated, confused and hurt and alone. As he shuddered above her, she had chanted. Faith, Discipline, Strength. El-olam, God of my people, protect me. Salam. Salam. Salam. El-olam, God of my people, protect me. Faith, Discipline, Strength. When she’d told the Imam the following morning, she’d been beaten for lying, scourged for the sin of tempting her own Uncle to her bed. She had been forced to kneel, naked and shivering, for a week, with only a few ounces of water a day to sustain her.
It had been then that they’d discovered that she was a Special.
Her welts had healed within hours, the raw and bleeding skin of her knees had knit together within seconds of her standing. The Imam had had her beaten again and again for a week, to remind her of her sin, for being an unnatural demon child. A whore, a slut, Eav come again to earth to tempt the great men of the world to sin. Every time, she’d healed within hours.
When her Uncle had found out, he’d pulled her to him in an embrace and she could feel his manhood—hard and throbbing—against her stomach. He’d taken her again that night.
Ashara had said nothing. She had merely prayed. Faith, Discipline, Strength. It was who she was, everything she believed and loved. El-olam, the everlasting one, and Moham, who brought peace and love to her people. Salam. Salam. Salam. God El-olam, who brings us peace everlasting, bring my soul to peace. Bring my soul to peace.
Now, at twenty-three, she knew that it was not precisely Ashara that Amin had desired, but the idea of an Ahman victory in combat. His obsession with victory was such that, upon seeing it embodied in his niece, he could not help but want her. With every year that passed, with every skill she earned with blood and sweat, Amin would take her to his bed. And Ashara would say nothing.
It had only stopped when finally, as she turned twenty-three, Ashara was moved to the deserts of Tyre and ensconced within the Ahman training facility. Even President Amin was not given entrance, lest he accidentally spill information. El-olam had, to Ashara, finally brought her soul to peace. That it was a peace brought upon by war and destruction meant little; it was the only peace she had known.
They expected little from her but what she had been bred to do. She fought and trained and, occasionally, she killed. When she and Avram had been paired together, she had killed more often, always taking care to choose deaths that would end in rebirth for the Immortal special. It had taken only three times of watching him to know how long it took his body to heal, and when he would awaken. It had taken even less time to realize that his favorite meal was mint tea, goat cheese, and lamb.
She was not without kindness. Had not Moham preached giving, had he not preached love and respect for others? To receive his gifts, Ashara understood that she would have to give her life over to his teachings. She struggled to live as close to his province as possible; he who would bring her peace, who would bring Al-Salam to all.
Avram finally opened his eyes. They were brown, like most of the people from her nation. He was young, but he was a good warrior. A good partner. Ashara knew he resented her, that he called her demon-bitch, but he had never let her down and nor had he ever prevailed himself upon her. “Demon-bitch…why are you here?”
The wound did not sting. Very little stung. She who lived for El-olam, for the peace of God, was not concerned overmuch with the suffering of this world. Ashara lived to defend her people and her faith; she fought for Al-Salam, to bring the final gospel of Moham to the world. She would likely die doing so, but was not death in this world a rebirth into Paradise? Did it not mean the rejoining of her soul with God’s infinite love and grace?
Faith. Discipline. Strength.
“You took three point six hours longer to heal than usual. I was worried that I had done more damage than I intended and wanted to watch.” She turned, face hidden as always behind the silk of her headdress. “I have brought your meal. You should eat.”
Avram sat up in bed, resentment giving way to hunger and appreciation. Looking at her, Avram smiled and struggled to hide his attraction as he had ever since he had attempted to caress her face. His breathing in her ear and the smoldering darkness of his eyes had not been his, but her Uncles, and his hand had not been the calloused hands of a warrior, but the oiled fingers of a lifetime politician. Panic had risen within her and she had reacted, breaking his arm and sending him sprawling across the campsite.
He had not tried again. And Ashara had come to understand that he would not force himself upon her. So she did not begrudge him his attraction, as uncomfortable as it made her; as much as it dredged up memories of Uncle Amin who had stolen her virtue and seen her as nothing more than the embodiment of an ideal.
“Don’t tell me you care, Ashara,” Avram replied, sipping at his tea. “That wouldn’t be very priestly of you.”
Ashara raised an eyebrow. “I…I fail to see how caring is un-priestly? Even if I am a priest and not merely an Acolyte.”
“It was a joke, Ashara. You know, a funny? You’re meant to laugh.”
“Oh.” Ashara laughed, forcing her throat to constrict in the unfamiliar gesture of amusement. “I understand. Very funny.”
Avram sighed. “Nevermind, Ashara. I’m awake. Why don’t you go practice killing someone else for a little while?”
“But it is not the appointed time for practice. I have two hours of time with which to pray and meditate before the practice ring is open to soldiers.”
“By Hadam, you are impossible! Go and pray, then, Ashara, and leave me to dress. I am naked under this covers, you know.”
Ashara blushed deep, uncomfortable with the thought of Avram’s nakedness, and stood. “Very well. Peace by upon you, Avram. I shall alert the others that you have awoken and pray in your name.” Bowing, palms pressed together, Ashara backed from the room and into the hallway before heading to the temple to pray.
Faith. Discipline. Strength.
And the means to bring peace to the world by destroying Ahmas’ enemies.
|Sesostris ducked behind the broken brick wall with his team, the last four members of an original eight man team sent to win the annual military event. |
Sesostris put his finger to his lips and gave the signal for Kayla aka “Gunz” to take the high position when they moved. This was something they trained constantly for during the team meetings. She gave a curt nod then sprung into action.
Kayla threw four stun grenades in the clearing hitting her marks easy to form a square with the first four. When they went off, she sent in the fifth which would simulate the sound of gun fire. The enemy gave away their position by returning fire that had never official started.
When kayla made her move, Sesostris ordered the rest to circle around concealing themselves in the dark forest. Once the gun fire went off, they were to eliminate their enemies, thus winning them the battle, or so they thought.
Sesostris kept hidden after the surprise attack, because something just didn’t seem right about how easily taking out their opponents was. He still wondered how they eliminated the other four so easily.
Kayla fist pumped the air while making shouts of joy, but the bell didn’t go off which would signify the end of the battle. Sesostris had spent the last year training his team to win. However, something had gone wrong, in the pit of his stomach he knew exactly what, or better yet who it was.
Just when he was sure, he knew something wasn’t right. The area around him erupted in gunfire.
Two years earlier.
Sesostris woke to a sharp pain in his thigh. “What the hell?” he groaned throwing the blanket off his body to check the spot that seared with pain. As he rubbed his hand over the olive skinned area, he checked the time on his clock. The blue LCD display said 3:57 a.m.; Sesostris knew he probably could not sleep after that so he got out of bed, put his robe on and headed off limping down the hall to the kitchen.
Before he even made it to the kitchen he could feel someone close, so he intentionally slowed his progress to assess the situation. The house was dark so he used it to his advantage then feigned an audible pain while unsheathing the knife in his robe pocket.
Sesostris, continued down the hall with the knife rose in the defense position. Adrenaline pumped throughout his body and made him forget the pain in his leg. He sprang around the corner into the kitchen catching the masked person hiding there off guard, but they quickly recovered matching him move for move.
The assailant went on the offensive with lightning fast moves, yet Sesostris always seemed to know exactly what his attacker was going to do. Then he found himself in a choke hold that allowed him a chance to grab the mask on his attacker, and pull it off.
“Ari?” Sesostris growled. His anger and adrenaline combined giving him the strength to pick his brother up turning the choke hold into a back drop. The backdrop was his favorite over all the others from his days as a child watching his favorite wrestling shows.
Both laid dazed on the rug in the living room.
“You son of a bitch!” Sesostris coughed, filling his lungs with air, and rubbing his neck.
“Ow, damn, you still love that back drop huh?” Ari complained, rubbing his back where he had hit the floor.
“What the hell are you doing here anyway.” Sesostris snapped, now rubbing his back in the same area Ari had.
“I’m glad you asked that question. I’m here because of dad actually.” Ari revealed, turning to face his brother.
“Don’t bring that bastards’ name up to me, after all he did.” Sesostris spat getting up off the floor.
“Ses, you don’t understand some things about our dad.” Ari said getting off the floor, then pulled a letter out of a pocket of black cargo pants. “Ses, dad is dead.” He said allowing sorrow to drift into his the statement.
The shock of Ari’s words struck Sesostris unexpectedly hard. There had been an incident years ago before the death of his mother that had separated his family. His father took his brother Ari with him when he left, while Sesostris stayed with his mother. Unis was at war with the Ultega and from what Sesostris had heard from his mother that his father was going to help the revolution.
“Why would I care anyway, he left and didn’t care for our mother or me?” Sesostris shot back venomously.
“Look, don’t be a dick. Dad was hurt when he learned that mom had died, but there was more going on than just dad going to help the revolution. He wrote a letter for the both of us. I read mine, it’s time you read yours.” Ari reasoned, offering the letter to Sesostris.
“Get the hell out,” demanded Sesostris, snatching the letter clenching his fists. His lips snarled with rage as he stormed out the living room and back to the kitchen.
- - -
Sesostris watched as his remaining team members fell.
“Well-done brother.” Ari said walking calmly out of his hiding place. “It looks like I won our little wager wouldn’t you say?”
Sesostris stepped from behind the tree he had taken cover behind and could feel the presence of one other than his brother. He tied a stun grenade with a smoke grenade together before throwing both in the direction of the other person he knew wasn’t a part of his team.
“I believe this glorified paint ball battle is over now brother.” Sesostris said matter of factly as he faced his brother.
“What are you talking about? You know you can’t beat me on a quick draw.” Ari pointed out.
“You know what? You’re right, I probably cannot beat you on a quick draw, but I can just shoot you without worry of you shooting back.” Sesostris replied calmly walking toward Ari.
Ari pointed his gun and shot, but heard the faint click of being empty.
Sesostris smiled as he raised his gun and shot his brother. Then watched the color drain from his face as his hands went to his crotch.
“See, when you did all of that fancy shooting to take down my team you used all of your paint balls. So, I thought I would remind you of where yours are with my last,” said Sesostris chuckling, as he went to help up his fallen team members.
With that the bell rang and the lights came up revealing the enclosure they were in along with the spectators in the box seats.
“You . . . bitch . . . ” Ari croaked as his face turned different shades of red.
“Huh? What’s that?” Sesostris mocked, putting a hand to his ear as if he couldn’t hear.
“Well-done boys,” General Akila congratulated. “We wanted to see what you could do in a real combat environment, and so far. We are happy. Next week, the two of you will be placed in a team together.” He informed them as he walked away conversing with the other members of both teams tentatively called Team Black and Gold.
“This is all your fault.” Sesostris said, helping his brother up.
“My fault? Look what you did!” Ari complained, Now there is paint all over my Gold suit. Ari brushed the paint off the crotch of his gold training suit.
“It’s your own fault for thinking you’re the shit, and being so cocky,” chastised Sesostris. “Besides, we wouldn’t be in this situation if you hadn’t convinced me to enlist, so deal.” He finished, as he remembered that night.
- - -
“Sesostris, just read the damn letter and I’ll be happy to leave you alone.” Ari demanded angrily, following Sesostris into the kitchen.
Sesostris grabbed a couple of bottles of water from the refrigerator. He sat one on the counter top then took the other to the kitchen table and placed the letter down in front of him as he opened his bottle.
With the kitchen light on Sesostris could see his brother in his all black cargo pants with matching combat vest and shirt. With the mask gone now it still amazed him that after all of this time he still looked so much like him except the hair and beard.
“Do you remember the drills dad would put us through?” Ari asked, breaking the silence, and sitting in the chair next to Sesostris.
“Yeah, I remember, how do you think I could fend you off?” Sesostris said, cracking a smile forgetting his anger toward his brother momentarily.
“Ses-“ Ari began.
“Is-is he really dead?” Sesostris asked.
“Yeah bro, he’s gone. You should really read the letter.” Ari said, picking up the letter in front of Sesostris and handing it to him again.
Sesostris took the letter and began to read.
I know what you must think of me leaving you and your mother the way I did and taking your brother with me. Nevertheless, I tell you now it was for the best. I had found that your brother was a special and I didn’t want him to be used as a pawn in the country’s debacle. So, I took steps to make sure he would have some kind of childhood. I may not have made the best decision, but I tell you now that my love for you and your mother has never waned. Now, if you are reading this, it must mean that I am no longer living, if so then there are things I need you to do. First, you must team with your brother and . . .
Sesostris checked to see if there were more of the letter written on the back, but found nothing, so he placed the letter back in the envelope it came in. He then sat in silence contemplating all he had just read.
“Are you okay?” Ari asked, after a time.
“Yeah, I’m okay, so where do we start?” Dad said he wrote the next step in your letter.
A smile crept across Ari’s face. “We enlist in the army.”
|Someone was about to get a swift kick in the ass.|
"Use your goddamn blinker douchebag!" Seral shouted through the windshield as the douchebag turned right. Growling with frustration Seral drove forward through the green light. Normally he was not prone to road rage, but today was different. Today had to be perfect. Not getting this job meant armed service, and armed service meant blindly following orders. Fuck that.
Seral saw the building approaching in the distance and quickly turned off the radio which had previously been blaring some shitty indie band called "Yabba Dammit Dude" that sounded like what sex with a rock probably felt like.
He parked where there was a space and stepped out to look at the building. It had been a long time coming he supposed. He'd been reading their funny yet informative articles since he was a child and during school he'd written a few in their like. None so popular as theirs, but his magnum opus "Ten Reasons You Don't Really Want to Go Home" attained a noticeable amount of praise from his peers. Some of which had previously been knocking his books down in the hallway, and one of which he'd won over after years of torment with a simple friendly sucker punch to the side of the neck.
Seral had always been the writer and a bit of a joker. His optimistic style of blatant sarcasm had gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion and that was fine with him. It had also gotten him laid which was nice aside from his weakness.
He'd known for a while that he was a bit on the foolish side when it came to women. Unable to tell whether they were interested in him, or just his cock; Seral had fallen for many of the wrong girls. Six to be exact. Three of them had cheated on him, one broke up with him because he was 'too nice', and the other two were just stone cold terrible people. In fact, the other two (Eliza and Bridgette) were awful on such a scale that Seral only dated them because he got caught in his other weakness...
"Seral Arkheit?" asked the female voice at the third floor front desk.
"Yes ma'am. Is Mr. Engle ready for me?" Seral asked. The receptionist was cute and he knew he was blushing. She had brown hair, straight and just touching her shoulders. Her eyes were blue and looked really big, gorgeous. He'd gotten used to blushing around ladies like her. It wasn't necessarily a good thing, not with his experiences. She smiled at him and stood holding out her hand to shake his. He did and smiled back.
"Of course. I'm Jenny Moore, welcome to Fault Magazine." Seral's heart sang. Not because this girl was cute, but because she was dressed casually. Her shirt was a t-shirt that said "I Read therefore I am" with a picture of a book wearing glasses and reading a book. She wore a bear of well fitting blue jeans as well, and didn't seem at all bothered by the fact that Seral had totally forgotten to brush his hair.
"Thanks." Seral replied. The woman turned and beckoned him to follow her. His eyes wandered down her frame and he sighed in disappointment when they reached their destination. There just wasn't much too it. Seeing a beautiful woman was nice and all, but when the lacked in a certain place it just didn't seem right.
She lead him to room 111 and he went in immediately seeing Engle flipping through a comic book and eating a donut.
There were superhero action figures on his desk along with video game characters. There was also a stack of metal cd's and a giant jar of jelly beans that was half full. Engle himself was thin with a slightly receded hairline. He wore glasses and has some wicked 5 o'clock shadow going. He looked up at Seral and grinned.
"Hey man," he greeted warmly pointing at Seral's hair, "I LOVE that look. It's perfect, off to a good start." Seral couldn't help but grin.
His nerves were going haywire. He'd be getting a call either next week or the week after to let him know if he'd gotten the job or not. That was too long. He knew it wasn't necessarily going to be today, but what if he didn't get the job? He'd be stuck in nine to five land. He'd be stuck on dead end street pushing for years to climb the ladder into a job he cared nothing about. Ten more years and they'd have another 'war' but he'd be too old by then. This could really fuck his life to pieces.
Staring into the rearview, into his own eyes, Seral took a deep breath.
"You're at a crossroads. There's a big decision to be made here. Right now. Right at this moment." A few more seconds of silent, agonizing contemplation and he turned the ignition. No, he still had one more day.
The next day....
Asher Ronal Crohs. Gunnery Sergeant Crohs to the maggots in boot, and Champion Crohs to the rest of the world. Through hell and back, he'd carved a place and history for his name in the previous 'war'. He was a real soldier, tried and true. Things were about to get serious in the world again and he liked the feel of it. The rumbling of the earth as it once again approached violence. Sacred, terrible, needless, invaluable war was coming. This day was one step closer. After today, there would be no more enlistments, no more lollygagging, tomfoolery, or pussyfooting. It would right about time to make these men and women into Men and Women. Into tools of war, into human weapons, into all they could physically accomplish. He would put them through hell, and he would beat them through it's cracked and smoldered abyss until they clawed their way out into the light of soldierhood.
Sitting down in his chair he put on his glasses and continued flipping through his newspaper. Crohs was only 31, but his demeanor was aged and youthful all at once. Rigid, stone-like. He lit his cigarette and dragged half of it without a second though, releasing smoke like a well used chimney. There was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" came Asher's hard voice.
"It's Reynolds, sir. We have a young man who wishes to enlist." Crohs rolled his eyes.
"Then process him Reynolds."
"He claims to be a special sir." Crohs sat up quickly and put down the newspaper and his cigarette before approaching the door. It swung open and Reynolds stood there looking up at him. "He claims to be a Regen, sir."
Seral was doing his absolute best not to start shaking. He'd been taken to a small room with some kind of removable white material on the floor. It felt like some kind of...cloth...paper maybe? It wierded him out. This whole enlisting idea was turning out to be a huge mistake. Oh dear God what was about to happen to him?
A tall gruff looking man in military dress walked in and looked at him like there was something wrong with him. Seral shifted to stand.
"Sit down boy." the man said waving his hand downward as he walked around to the other side of the table. Seral obeyed. "So, you say you're a Regen soldier eh?"
"Yessir." His voice wavered.
"That's good, now would you stake your life to that claim?" Crohs asked looking Seral right in they eyes. Seral wanted nothing more to avoid this tiger's gaze. Crohs looked like he may just lash out and cut his throat at any second in time. Seral's mouth opened, but his speech was frightened into the back of his throat. "If I was gonna cut you boy you'd be bleeding now. Answer my question."
"Yessir." Seral barked. A grin slowly crept over Crohs' face.
"Now you can stand up." he said walking around the table to Seral's left. Holding his breath, Seral stood up. At first, he didn't even feel anything. There was just this look on Crohs' face and this wetness on Seral's side. His eyes widened. He hadn't even seen the knife, nothing. Just a slow building exploding pain boiling over his left side. When he looked there was most certainly blood. Quite a bit coming out at once. This was a mistake. What if he was wrong? What if his ability crapped out on him now? His knees buckled, but he held. He didn't want to fall now. No, this was about proving a point.
"I..." Seral stammered. He didn't have anything to say, but he needed to hear his voice, make sure he was still as aware as he thought he was. His legs were shaking, vision fuzzing over at the edges.
"You're afraid. You haven't really experimented with your abilities. They scare you don't they? Don't worry boy, you're a Regen. I knew as soon as I saw you. No blemishes, no pock marks, not a single scar from acne, accidents, or work. That doesn't happen for this long in someone's life. Suck it up, you're enlisted."
Seral slowly took a deep breath as he felt the itching, tingly, fire of healing on his side. It always felt so uncomfortable yet soothing. Good Lord did it ever itch though. Like a scab just before you were supposed to peel it off, but on a much grander scale. When it stopped he knew he was healed. Seral exhaled,
"Thank you sir."
He had made his decision. He probably hadn't gotten the job at Fault anyway.
|The sun was angry this morning, flashing bright and brilliant in the sky.|
It was of no importance to Ashara, who ignored it as she did all things and pressed onward into the artificial forests of the Ahman training facility. Behind her, Avner seemed less than willing to ignore the oppressive nature of the desert, but he was as much a soldier as she, and Uncle Amin was watching these tests with a keen eye. He, too, stepped into the forests with a careful glance around them, not a word spared for the heat or the unbearable weight of three sleepless nights.
The talks at the UNC had gone well for Uncle Amin. He’d swaggered into the testing facility laughing, knowing full well that such a place was not even for one of his level to enter. It was a place of war, not of politics, killing and not diplomacy. But he had entered nonetheless.
Ashara did not want to see him. But he was waiting for her at the end of this test, as sure as the moon awaited the advancing sun with open arms. And Ashara could no more fail this test than the sun could journey to meet the moon, so the two must eventually meet.
Avner seemed to sense her trepidation. “Something the matter, Ashara? You seem tense.”
“Uncle Amin is here.” Ashara glanced around her, sparing the barest thought and dampening her bio-current. It mattered little, she supposed, as Avner shone as bright as a sun himself, but the training overwhelmed all thought in these situations. She was the perfect solider, trained to fight and to serve without conscious understanding, to serve the realm as instinctively as the camel rides for water. Dampening her bio-current came as easily to her as breathing, and it mattered not that Avner could not do the same. “I dislike it that he is here.”
Avner shrugged as the two of them stalked through the dense trees and overgrown paths of the forest simulation. There was another team out there, most likely human (though it was easily as likely that another of Ahmas’ Specials was out there, waiting for them), and definitely searching for them. It was a no-kill situation, more a matter of glory and, for some, bragging rights. Avner had explained to Ashara over last night’s sand rabbit that many of the others wanted to beat her, just to say they could. It was a matter of much puzzlement to Ashara, who could not understand such things.
The ways of humanity were a mystery to her.
“Why? Show off a little, win the fake little battle they’ve set up, and President Amin will shower you with glory.”
Ashara grimaced. “I want none of his glory!” she growled, turning on Avner and placing her dagger at his neck. “I want nothing to do with his kind.”
Avner paled and Ashara softened toward him slightly, just enough so that she was able to remove the dagger and blink her emerald eyes in sorrow. “What he has done to you has been very cruel, I guess.”
“What do you know of what he has done to me?” Ashara raised an eyebrow, but turned away from her partner, placing one booted foot carefully onto the ground before her. The sun was dappled here, all-but-defeated by the canopy of trees above them. Still, it was hot, and sweat trickled down Ashara’s face and stained her robes. She did not mind such discomforts. Truly, the fight was all she knew. It was all she wanted.
El-olam, great God of her people, had sent Moham to guide them. And He had sent her to fight in Moham’s name. It was the fulfillment of her soul’s great purpose to fight. It was what El-olam wanted for her; was it no wonder, then, that doing so was what brought her the greatest peace?
Dealing with the machinations of the human heart and the human body were too much. There was nothing so complicated, so downright confusing, as humanity. It was much better to serve El-olam. Much easier, in the long run.
Avner did not reply. It was the wisest thing he could have done at that moment.
Ahead of them, a branch cracked and Ashara steeled herself. Without a word, she shook her head and listened to the world around them. She had not been born with the keen senses of other Specials—her great healing ability precluded such an ability—but Ashara had trained from her third birthday to make the greatest use of El-olam’s many gifts.
“It is a trap,” she whispered, voice so low that Avner had to read her lips. They had trained at such things upon Ashara’s insistence, and even he had to admit that it had been a useful endeavor. The hand signals all Ahman soldiers learned would be of no use to them against Ahman soldiers, after all. Not everything about the Demon-Bitch was entirely without merit, after all, and she did seem keen on keeping him alive today. “We go to the right.”
Avner nodded, and struck out to the right, his footfalls soft enough that even a deer would have trouble hearing them. Ashara was even quieter, dampening all thought and all bio-electric currents with years of experience. It would be like the generals to test them today, to set them against a Precog or even an Omniscient and see how well they faired against those with the greatest awareness.
Ashara slipped between the trees, dampening her breath and her blood, daring (without thinking of it) their opponents to find her and to kill her. She was hashaseen. Faith, Discipline, Strength. None other lived for Ahman greatness like she. None other fought for al-Salam as she did. None other would best her, neither Ahman-born or Infidel.
She was a Warrior of God. She was the unbeaten.
Faith. Discipline. Strength.
Her sword sung in the heat of the forest shade, and it came to rest a hair’s breadth away from the neck of Hamir, a veritable tank of a man who also happened to be the Psychic whose hand she’d removed once before. So the generals had decided to test them against a Special, after all. Ashara had thought as much. With Uncle Amin here, they were likely to throw in any trick they could, just to see if she could outwit them.
“You lose, Hamir.”
Hamir grinned and shook his head. “No, I don’t.” The silver glint of a curved blade brushed against Ashara’s neck. She turned slightly and saw that Ismet, an Awareness solider, had come up behind her. Smiling softly, Ashara shook her head.
“You do, of course.” Kicking out at Hamir—he blocked, of course, but in doing so left an opening for Avner to come in and pin him to the forest floor—Ashara turned and swung her sword as Ismet. A fight with an Awareness soldier was very much a fight of attrition. It all came down to who gave out first. Who was stronger, who believed more fervently. To whom El-olam had given the greater strength.
In all of these things, Ashara bested him. He had not been trained from three to stand, unflinching and perfectly straight, for days on end, increasingly heavy weights attached to her arms and shoulders. Ismet had never once been tied to a wall and beaten before training exercises, so that he could feel the pain of combat and yet fight through it.
Ismet had never been forced to take the girth of a man within him, pinned down to a bed and alone, disbelieved and ignored as his Uncle thrust into and out of him with a bacchanalian abandon. He’d never been forced to hold on to his belief despite being unable to imagine a God who would punish him so.
Ashara bested him in all these things. So when her sword pinned itself to his heart, the tip just barely scratching Ismet’s tunic, she was not surprised to see that she had won. It was, after all, the will of El-olam.
“Wonderful! Wonderful!” Uncle Amin entered the clearing, hands clapped together with delight. “I dare anyone to say that we shall not have our victory this round! Skyland should cower in fear. Ah, Moham has truly brought us our victory and all in the form of my most beautiful niece.”
Ashara pulled her sword away from Ismet and bowed to her opponent. “It was well fought, Ismet al Abbadun.”
“Indeed.” Ismet returned the bow before all but storming his way from the clearing. Hamir, released from his hold by Avner, followed his partner out of the forest, glaring daggers at Ashara as he went. He’d never forgiven her for cutting off his hand, no matter that the medic had regrown it. There were many whose service to Moham seemed conditional, and Hamir seemed vastly unwilling to put himself into any great danger.
It was precisely for this reason that the generals regarded him as a lesser asset who would likely be sent out to die come the war.
“Avner, good work. You and Ashara shall be the most formidable of all the teams on Pangaea. By the will of El-olam, God of Hadam, God of Yizaac and Moshes, we shall be victorious! Ahmas will no longer be a second-tier power, bound by the whims of Skyland and Ultega. The world shall finally know of the might of El-olam and His chosen!” Amin’s eyes brightened, the faraway glint of the fanatical shining in his gaze. Ashara forced herself not to flinch. She knew what such fervor portended.
Avner bowed. “Indeed, it shall be glorious.”
“Leave us, Avner. Leave us, everyone. I wish to speak to my niece in private.”
Ashara sensed everyone leaving, the minute vibrations of their footsteps reverberating through the earth and up her sensitive legs. She knew the precise moment that she was alone with this man. This man who had raped her for a decade and would now take her again.
“Ah, Ashara. I have hungered for you. Hungered to see you, to know that you are victory embodied. You are sent by Moham himself to guide Ahmas to greatness. Hungered to taste you, to feel you, to take you.” Ashara forced herself not to move. This man was her Uncle, and yet he was also her President and her master. He had sponsored her to the Hashaseens, reviving the order for her. He had saved her and raised her when a blood feud had taken her parents. She wanted nothing more than his approval.
She wanted so much more to kill him.
Amin kissed her this time, which was new. He must be truly obsessed with the victory now, to believe himself in love with her. Ashara did not kiss him back. She stood stock-still, hand grasped around her sword, muscles taunt with fear and loathing, and hatred for both herself and Amin. She wondered, as Amin pushed her against a tree and forced himself into her, breathing shallow and uneven, why El-olam could allow this to happen? Why did he allow this man, to whom she was so beholden, to press himself into and out of her, to steal her pride and her virtue and squirt ignominy into her woman parts?
What lessons could He possibly want her to learn this way?
“Unh, Ashara, victory…” Amin groaned and muttered to himself, half unintelligible. Ashara felt the stirrings of pleasure within her and cried, dismayed that her body would so betray her. Hot tears spilled from her eyes and down her face, dropping onto Amin’s silk tunic. Her hands flexed, and Ashara heard her sword drop to the earth beneath her.
Defenseless. Ashara Ibrahim, Hashaseen of El-olam, warrior of the al-Salam, who could kill a man before blinking an eye, could do nothing but weep silently as her Uncle raped her. She could do nothing but cry out as her body betrayed her and the pleasure swept through her every limb, a sea of shame crashing through in its wake.
She could do nothing but hope that, eventually, El-olam would sent her to the fields of Pangaea, where she could die for Him and finally, irrevocably, be free of everything He had sent to plague her. Surely then, she would have proven herself loyal to Him and would be deserving of His love.
Amin turned her around and came at her from behind, rutting like an animal, need engulfing him as he took his pleasure from her. If he did not finish soon, he would be like to start biting, scratching, tugging…his need for dominance wiping out all traces of humanity within his soul. For President Amin of Ahmas wanted control more than he wanted anything else, save victory. He would mount the President of Skyland if he could, bugger him blind to prove his dominance, so like a dog was he.
A wordless growl erupted from Amin’s throat and the man stiffened, his prick shoved deep inside Ashara as he spilled his seed. She would not get pregnant—he had long ago proven himself to be sterile—but the knowledge that he left something within her made Ashara sick. “Ah, Ashara. Would that I could have you all the time. My winged victory, my Nike, who will bring me the world. You are mine and so the world is mine. And I mean to keep it.”
He walked off, then, as unaffected by what he had done as the bottom of the sea is by the sun. Likely he had another woman, several in fact, to plunder when he got back to his rooms at the compound. This was not about sex for him, or about pleasure. It was about dominance and ownership and superiority.
Amin had simply wanted to remind the would that he owned Ashara and, through her, them. No matter what he did to Ashara in the process.
Avner waited for her in the compound. “You did well, Ashara,” he said by way of greeting. He did not smile, for he never smiled these days, but he did reach out his hand to take Ashara’s in a warrior’s handshake.
Instead, he met with Ashara’s blade. “Touch me now and you will lose your hand. If any of the generals need me, I will be in the baths, washing, or in the temple, praying. No one is to disturb me but them.” Ashara brushed past her partner, sparing him not even a glance, not wanting him to see that she had been crying, convinced that he would smell the jism trickling down her leg, or the shame wafting about her. Not wanting him to hate her, sure that he would.
She hated herself, after all.
Lying beside a small wooden bedside table, with the smell of thick smoke permeating the room, a result of fires being set by rebel guerrilla troops making random raids for supplies. Sesostris laid on the bare mattress in his apartment having kicked off the sheet and blanket in his sleep. He stared up at the ceiling wondering just when all of this would be over. He could hear someone yelling outside, but it was nothing new to him. There were things always going on outside, and though it disturbed him, he had to keep his head on straight and stick to the plan.
He expertly changed the channel to the news to keep abreast of everything else going on in the world when he noticed one of the news channels commenting on a recent raid by the rebel group.
“There are multiple casualties in the latest raid by AMP, or Anti Military Police. They are supposed to be protecting the rights of the free people, but if they continue this course the so-called people they are protecting will all be gone.”
“So much for protecting the people.” Sesostris commented, as he pulled a cigarette from his pack on the table next to the bed.
“AMP stated a few days ago if the military didn’t close their facilities near North City, they would start raiding the soldiers quarters.”
“Little bitches, wouldn’t dare.” Sesostris remarked, taking a long drag from the cigarette. He knew it was bad for him, but it helped calm his nerves when he had things on his mind.
He propped the cigarette in his mouth having decided that the news was bullshit today. Sesostris pulled himself up into a sitting position, then threw his feet over the side of the bed. A bitter cold crept up through his feet as they touched the wooden floor. He rubbed his legs to get the circulation going before forcing himself off the bed.
Sesostris found himself in the bathroom staring in the mirror, and it wasn’t lost on him that the floor was sticky. It was a sorry excuse for a bathroom that had the remnant smell of old piss, which made him rethink his decision of walking barefoot. As an afterthought he made the conscious decision to make a mental note of obtaining another room. The only reason he had this one was because he lost a bet with his brother Ari.
“Ugh, damn you Ari.” He thought, as he tapped his cigarette on the sink as an ash tray.
Sesostris carefully made his way back to the back into the room, and accidentally kicked his wallet under the bed that must have fallen out when he kicked his pants off. He got down on his knees to recover his wallet when an explosion rocked the building. The force of the blast blew out the windows, and sent shards of glass flying everywhere. Sesostris hugged the floor as if it were a woman he was sleeping with.
Ari paced the floor of the Metro Court Hotel room in North City. He studied the letter he held in his hand checking meticulously to see if there was anything he missed. Ari Ramadan had made a bet with his twin brother Sesostris the night before during a game, they were playing that they used to play as children to the dismay of their mother, before their father split them up. The way the game works is to take an uncooked egg, balance it on a table, and then take a sharpened knife and slice the egg in half; dividing it so cleanly that the cut doesn’t fracture the shell around the edges. Ari bet Sesostris that he could do two eggs at once after both had successfully performed the trick for all the patrons at the local drinking hole “Dooney’s Bar and Grill”
Sesostris didn’t know that while Ari was with their father, he would hustle money on the streets of Alegra village located on the east coast of North City. He would meet ex-Ultega soldiers who refused to believe a Unis’ brat could beat them at something. Ari honed his skill to near perfection, the only reason he would lose a game is if he had spent the night drinking, and even then his skills were diminished only by a fraction.
The thought of the previous night mixed with the expression on Sesostris’ face was priceless.
“Wh-What the fuck is this!” Sesostris roared.
Ari could not keep the smirk from spreading across his face at the memory, then his expression changed when he remembered about the letter.
The last time they had played the knife game was the night they lost their sister, Keira. She was twelve at the time, and she was a beautiful girl who could melt the heart of anyone she met. She was the apple of their father’s eye, and seemed to ignite the fire of life into their mother. When she disappeared, it affected everything. Keira was special, her abilities revealed themselves at an early age. Keira was what the officials called an immortal.
Ari laid back against his lavish bed with its silk sheets and pillow. He missed his own bed terribly. He ate a hotdog, and washed it down with a shot of whiskey. The liquid fire did little to settle the thoughts on his mind. All it did was give him a satisfying warming sensation to his belly. He watched the evening news on a digital flat-screen television. The balcony door to his room was wide open, looking out to a beautiful show of human ingenuity of living. The tall buildings with their complex structure, and the sloop of the high rises display the creative mind of the architect. A bitter cold having recently arrived, most stayed indoors, for none dared to brave the swirling winds of the city.
He had in his mind the perfect plan to get back at the people responsible for his fathers’ death. There were things he hadn’t told his brother that had to deal with their father. He knew that his twin would be reckless with the information he had, and only time would allow for it all to sink in. Still, the letter in his hand delivered when his food came threw a wrench in his plans.
Lost in his thoughts as he laid there in the bed he jumped when he felt a vibration on his thigh then fumbled for the cell in his pocket. When he pulled the phone free, he checked the screen to find an ‘Unknown number’ flashing, and against his first thought, he pressed the answer button and pressed the phone to his ear.
“There is a bomb going to go off at the hotel your brother is staying at.”
“Who is this?”
Ari paid no attention to the phone call, and chalked it up to Sesostris playing a trick because of losing the bet the previous night. He must have fallen asleep at some point because he was shaken awake by a vibration that seemed to rock his room. He jumped out of bed and ran to the balcony that gave him a great view of the hotel Sesostris was in to find a thick cloud of smoke surrounded by fire and falling debris.