Thrilling scifi/fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Earth.
|"I, Lieutenant Colonel Hudson Matthews, had the privilege of mentoring the deceased, Private Jacob Ronald Kavinsky, during his training period in the academy. Private Kavinsky faced an obviously more skilled opponent but held his ground courageously and died honorably by all accounts. I offer my condolences to his loved ones." He spoke in a controlled and absent tone, even as a fellow peacemaker gave the Kavinskys a folded flag. "The United Countries and the Volcrum thank Private Kavinsky for his service to our world, government, and prism. We of the Volcrum will not rest until he and the other twenty peacemakers that have fallen victim to the Azure Bandit's rain of terror have been avenged. May the White Tiger bless your path as you walk it." Mother Kavinsky's tears stained the ornate red, green, black and blue flag as she buried her face into the stitched silver eagle and lion.
He had done too many of these funerals over the years,"Raise Arms...Fire!", Hudson's voice was lost in the blaze as the eight peacemakers, four on each side of the coffin, shot their M.I.D.D flamethrowers into the sky above the burial. The brilliant display of crossed flames was captured in Hudson's honeycomb eyes as the intense heat licked at his brazen skin. He stood close enough to the fires that the runaway strands of his dress uniform were singed. He seemed unaffected by the heat, making him look even more menacing as he towered over the other soldiers at a steady 6'7".
He wore the standard dress uniform of a pure white suit with a golden tie and a golden lining at the end of the sleeves. Hudson, being highly decorated, adorned a golden cord across his right shoulder as well as a chest full of colored ribbons and patches. Hanging on his left hip was his claymore with a basket hilt and strapped across his back was his M.I.D.D or Military Individual Defense Device. He brushed a white-gloved hand through his slicked back dark hair as he fitted on his hat. As usual, a strand escaped and curled on his forehead giving him the approachable look he endeavored to refute.
Private Jacob Ronald Kavinsky was lowered into his plot and the grunting of heavy labor was only stifled by his mother's sobbing accompanied by his father's consoling coos. Upon the casket, Hudson caught the glint of a small, tear-shaped gem. This was the Azure Bandit's calling card, these small stones made their way to every one of her victims somehow. An old brass trumpet that had been welded time and time again sung a somber funeral march from the hill above as the sun started to set around the walls of the prism. The Solythiem dome over the city sent out a blinding glare across the broken graveyard and for a moment, spread a flash of life on the mournful gathering.
As they did after every funeral, the Volcrum peacemakers headed to the pub for indulgent revelry. The cities, or prisms as they were usually called because of their unique shape, were divided into three districts: Lower, Medial, and Upper. The Upper district housed the people of privilege and government institutions while the average workers and military members made their homes in the Medial district. The Lower district held the cemeteries, bars and citizens of lower class. Earth now had four functioning prisms, though the original five still stood.
Most of the peacemakers huddled in a group, locked around the shoulders and patting each other on the back while Hudson followed alertly behind. The narrowness of the Lower district alleyways and his size made stepping around the filth that filled the streets difficult. The old shacks appeared to be smashed together, even the panels and windows were splintered, and the scent of relinquishment saturated the crisp night air. The bar sign flickered unreliably but was still easy to spot due to the lack of available electricity to the Lower district. The soldiers pushed through the crackling door to be welcomed by upbeat music and drunken chatter.
It was mere moments after their entrance that they were greeted by a busty server with a full platter of drinks, one for each man. Most uproariously toasted and made a place for themselves at a small circular table in the middle of the room. Hudson, on the other hand, found himself a stool at the empty corner of the bar separate from his comrades. His feet sat on the ground and his knees hit the counter top, "Enjoying that tight fit Lieutenant Colonel?" the bartender barreled as he brought a shot glass. Hudson slightly lifted his eyes in recognition and put his palm over one of the many scanners located around the business. The scanner accessed his I.D. chip and pulled the credits from his account to pay his tab. The bartender continued on his way leaving Hudson a pint glass too, they had done this routine many times before.
Hudson touched his shot glass causing it to light up with a menu. He scanned through the options and clicked Whiskey. It wasn't real Whisky, but a substitution close enough to bear the same name. His small shot glass filled up with hard liquor and a small price flashed on the screen. It was always interesting watching the bottle on the shelf slowly empty as his glass filled. Hudson didn't know the mechanics of matter transportation, all he cared about was that his glass was full. He looked down at his hand and fiddled with the band on his finger.
"I see you're holding up!" A hand fell on Hudson's shoulder and gently squeezed."Every soldier has his time and we all know the consequences that come with our profession." was Hudson's stout reply. Cristophe Valko pulled out the stool next to Hudson and sat down, he fit much better than his friend, being shorter and more slender. Cristo had longer brunette hair that framed his fair features; he spent plenty of time styling it. Always keeping up with fashion, he wore a tall hat strapped with a leather belt decorated with copper gears and pipes and a long sleeved shirt under a tight vest made of a green paisley patterned fabric. His green eyes flickered with child-like wonder as he said, "I made you something that'll cheer you up." Cristo reached into his jacket pocket. "I don't need cheering." Hudson's eyes narrowed.
Cristo opened his palm to expose a small, folded machine. The piece started to move and pulled its long, needle-like legs out from under its belly in attempt to stand on Cristo's hand. It seemed to have woken up for the first time. Though uneasy on its tall limbs it chanced clinking its thin wings. The machine resembled a beetle on stilts and as it tried to take another unsure step fell comically. It tucked in its legs and rolled across the counter to unfold surprising well by Hudson; it was proud of it's victorious landing! It's intricate exposed gears and wheels under its wing cavity moved cleanly with a ting that sounded of distant bells. Hudson picked up the small bug, completely engulfing it in his large grasp. It responded with mechanical squealing, but Hudson put a finger on its small head and the bug relaxed.
The mechanoid's head was adorned by a small bubble of glowing green liquid and rested on the same platform that connected its legs to the rest of its body. "Seems complicated." Hudson stated plainly. "You know that I've been finishing my studies in organic computing." Cristo's voice underlined his disappointment with Hudson's forgetfulness, "I programmed all that neuroplasma myself, it took -" "Snug." Hudson interrupted suddenly."What?" "Snug." Cristo continued to stare at Hudson confused. "Snug, that's what I've decided to call it. I figured you wouldn't let me call it Bug, you always have an opinion about everything after all." Hudson smiled at him, but continued to remain completely serious as he packed Snug into his coat, causing Cristo to laugh and excuse himself from the bar. "I think I'm gonna go have a drink with someone looking to have a little ludis." Cristo smirked and grabbed Hudson's pint cup as he spontaneously joined a group of people.
Hudson watched Cristo for a while to make sure he was getting along with his new friends. Cristo always did; he was updated on the current trends and spoke the Latin slang that was popular these days; Hudson couldn't care less about all of that. The peacemaker slipped out of the bar in the middle of the twilight hours, figuring Cristo would find his way home somehow. The streets had grown dark, but Hudson had no problem seeing at night; the lights of the Upper district shone like distant stars. That district was made of complex metals and machinery, while the Lower district was built of industrial plastics because simple wood was highly sought after. His steps echoed on the road as the silence was broken by a wailing child. Homes in this area usually contained only a sink, toilet and oven. The occupants normally slept on the ground and their light came only from candles. Few could imagine what growing up in such conditions would be like and even fewer wanted to think about it.
Every street ended at one of the four sets of stairs that lead up to the other districts. As he neared the steps a man and woman laid in his path. His arms were wrapped tightly around her pressing her into him, but she still shook from the biting chill. Scum had infused with the lines of their skin making their age distinguishable. As Hudson stepped over them the woman hacked violently into her partner's chest. He continued on, shifting over the rabble that littered his way home. The five prisms were built almost 500 years ago in response to the nuclear threat during WWIII that eventually destroyed most of human civilization. The five prisms, being constructed of an artificially engineered element called Solythiem, saved 20% of Earth's population. They now did not have the capacity to hold a growing populace and more citizens were forced to either live in the streets or be exiled outside in the irritated desert, called the Badlands, that Earth had now become.
Hudson walked up the gray, cold stairs for a couple miles until he came to his street in the Medial district. There were far fewer people sleeping in the street, but their raspy coughing still made the inside of his throat creep. He tensed the back of his mouth and curled his tongue as he scratched his neck trying to relieve the psychological irritation. He lived in a block-like building uniform to the other living spaces here. After he managed to maneuver to his brick complex, he trudged up the stairs, unlocked his door and was finally home. It had been a long day, like every other day. The sun always rose and it always set, the days never got shorter and the nights never grew longer.
The Volcrum were treated well for citizens living in the Medial district; they had heat, electricity and even a separate living space. Hudson's apartment, like all the others, entered into a living room. To the left was a three tier shelf, mostly filled with training books, in the center of the room was a small table and couch. To the right was the kitchen which was separated from the living room by a long counter. Across from the entrance to the kitchen area was the door to the bathroom and down that hallway was Hudson's bedroom. Hudson unbuttoned his jacket as he walked through to his room.
He could feel the heat rising in his chest already; a wave of unexplained fear hit him as his heart fell into his stomach and a sickening feeling took over him. Sweat started to exude from his pores and his breath was heavy while he hung his dress uniform and standard issue weaponry in the small, bedroom closet before heading for the bathroom. He swept the plastic, sliding door open with trembling hands and almost painfully stepped into the brick shower. He held a deep breath in his lungs and clenched his teeth as the turned the shower on cold. The freezing liquid sent a shock down his spine and knocked the air out of him. He wrapped his arms around himself, gasping, as he tried to recapture his breath. Hudson stared up into the nozzle and let the water into his eyes. They became bloodshot and his lips turned blue. His chest and legs a hue of purple, but all worthwhile as the heat started to subside.
He stood still, facing the nozzle, till he felt the frigid rawness sink into his bones. He turned the shower off, but stayed shivering until most of the biting liquid dripped from his body and down the drain. Hudson's breathing was short, shallow and too quiet to hear. He leaned on the back of the shower and slid down the wall onto the floor where he sat with his head on his knees. His sleep was like a trance being continually broken by his own shaking. Only after absolute exhaustion took him would he rest. There was a aching night ahead like all the other nights that had come before. The heat and the dread constantly haunted him.
Hudson had fallen in and out of consciousness throughout the night, but as dawn rose he finally fell asleep from fatigue until noon. He woke up suddenly to small pin picks on his chest and sat up straight, flinging Snug to the bathroom wall. Hudson looked around the room startled. Letting out a weakened sigh, he grabbed Snug, who was once again proud of its landing, and got dressed for the day in his Volcrum duty uniform. The uniform consisted of black boots, slacks, armored vest, radio earpiece and trench coat. He strapped on his claymore and M.I.D.D, then headed out the door.
The streets of the district were packed with laborers and their families headed off to the market or lunch. The little girls pranced in their fluffy, brightly colored dresses while the boys rough housed in thick coats with their caps tucked in their belts. Most of the men wore tight vests or epaulet buttoned jackets, top hats or goggles and often mechanical or metal pieces. The woman of this district, being laborers as well, usually wore leather corsets, knee high boots, fingerless gloves and a tight covering to hold their hair back along with their industrial add-ons. In contrast, seldom an upper district lady would waltz down the road flaunting her laced umbrella and expensive fascinator while lifting her layered gown from the ground. After the war, people salvaged what they could from what was left, creating a thriving culture all its own.
As Hudson walked down the road, children were quieted and families retreated closer the buildings. Everyone lowered their eyes and made way for him to pass. Peacemakers were meant to protect the public, but the public didn't necessarily see it that way. The Volcrum precinct took up a whole block housing the penitentiary, courtroom and a clinic as well; behind it were the stables and military warehouses. It was a long, bland place with steel doors and barred windows. Hudson pushed through the entrance and walked down the checkered hallway till he came to the General's office. "I'm here for assignment, General." Hudson never knocked and General Mou had dropped reprimanding him for the abrupt intrusions.
General Mou was a sturdy, old man with a mechanical arm. He had lost the appendage during an excursion passed the Boundary, he didn't speak of it often. The main body of the arm was a dark maroon, but the exposed joints shined chrome. It was more intricate than any other artificial appendage Hudson had seen with gold-plated reinforcements for battle. "You're on visa verification today with First Sergeant Heston and Master Sergeant Kinsley." A smirk flashed across the General's face as he saw the disappointment on Hudson's. "Well, get to it Lieutenant Colonel, they'll get ancy out there if you leave 'em waiting too long!" Hudson hesitantly headed out to the back of the building where Miles Heston and Wes Kinsley were jabbering loudly. The two had been friends since childhood and Hudson found being their commanding officer a handful, even after years of being stuck with them.
"Amicus! Hit me up!" Wes, who was a stout red-haired man, raised his hand up to Hudson for a high five. Hudson waited for Wes to give up, but he didn't. "What?! Why do you think you're too eximius to give me a hit?" Wes puffed out his chest and started to close in on Hudson. "Relax Wes, he's just asper like always. Can't take your heat, back down." Miles was a tall, dark skinned man who spent most of his time keeping Wes out of trouble. Miles took Wes by the shoulder and turned him around, the two started for the prism gate while Hudson lagged behind.
"Blessed White Tiger, I am not in the mood to deal with dirty, long ears today." Hudson couldn't help but overhear Wes' comment about Imps. "I don't mind long ears, it's the scale backs that cause real trouble." Miles was referring to the dragon-like humanoids called Dragoons, which were very rare to see anyway. Both species, along with Ilvans, Vixens, Morgoths, Vapara and a slew of others came to Earth fifty years after humanity decimated the planet with nuclear warfare in WWIII. Their arrival was historically labeled The Landing which united humanity in a new war against their alien invaders that shaped Earth's future.
Even though most humans have held racial animosity towards Earths newest occupants over the centuries, without these alien species humanity would have died out a long time ago. They came from the planet Rishka, in a galaxy with two suns. The planet was constantly bombarded with radiation so the flora and fauna evolved to thrive on the usually deadly energy. When the Rishkians came with an ark of radiation resistant resources, it gave Earth a second chance for survival. Not only that, a Rishkian known as the White Tiger, ended the bloodshed and became the only savior in Earth's now hybrid culture.
The entrance to the prism was located in the Lower district and was guarded on the outside from the crowds of rioters. The inside of the prism was separated from the wilderness by two Solytheim gates. To enter into the city visitors and migrant workers had to enter through the first gate where they would be decontaminated, then the next gate would allow them in. After entering the city every I.D. chip and body was scanned for added security, known as visa duty to the Volcrum peacemakers. This same routine was repeated when leaving the prism.
Only essential Rishkians were allowed to live inside, thus everyone entering the city was either a Rishkian or a human forced to live outside because of overcrowding. These people had to leave at the end of the work day and couldn't take anything with them. This prism, Imperium, was located in the western hemisphere in a place that was once known as Idaho in United States of America and Imps made up most of the migrant workers. Hudson, Wes, and Miles arrived at the visa line, relieved three other peacemakers from the morning shift and started their boring duty.
At this time of day more were coming in than leaving, so Wes and Miles starting checking in while Hudson started scanning people out in a separate line. Large network screens were scattered all over the prism and the largest were located above the gates both inside and out. News, speeches and outside displays of the Badlands beyond were broadcasted over the peacemakers as they worked. "And now our great Chancellor Parrino has a word for his children-" "Raise your right hand." Hudson usually ignored the screen, "You're clear, move on. Raise your right hand. You're clear, move on."
"-and remember my children, the choosing of the Candidate draws closer. I will soon be replaced and a new era of prosperity will rise! Thank you for listening to the wise words of your Chancellor, may the White Tiger bless your path as you walk it." Hudson had missed the rest of the speech, but the last part caught his attention. His childhood friend, Cristo, was one of the five Candidates for the Chancellorhood.
Under Tenet VIII, the twenty most intelligent youths from around the world were trained throughout their lives to become the Chancellor. As they grew older, those who were unfit for the position were weeded out leaving only five by the time of the Coronation. Cristo had spent his life studying towards this goal, he had become an expert in every subject from math and history to language and mechanics. Out of the five, the four who do not become the Chancellor would make up the Chancellor's private advisers.
Hudson worried about his friend; he knew Cristo was capable, but he was carefree and innocent when it came to people. His thoughts were shattered by a threat alarm ringing over his head. He looked to the network screen where a group of three vehicles, each with 4 armed riders, approaching the prism was displayed. These were rebel anarchists, bent on destroying the United Counties' way of life that had been so difficult to establish. The Imps started to panic, though safe inside the prism, the peacemakers struggled to keep them under control.
Hudson ran towards the gate, leaving his heavy M.I.D.D behind. "Lieutenant Colonel! You can't go out without protection!" Miles yelled after him, the radiation parred with extreme weather was often a deadly collision. He motioned to some guards to raise both gates, "Stay there and keep order. I'll be fine and they'll need my help." He was referring to the two peacemakers equipped with Evosuits that guarded from the outside, two against twelve was bad odds. Once opened Hudson ran through the gates, they slammed close behind him. The broiling sun beat down on his body like a feverish purgatory. The sharp sand that twisted in the radioactive air clawed at his flesh. The parched wind that slithered in the desolate landscape clogged this lungs. Hudson stood in line with the other two peacemakers and buttoned his coat over his mouth and nose; he drew his claymore as the roar of engines drew closer.
"Matthews?" A surprised, radioed voice emitted from the suited solider next to him. "Cover me!" Hudson shouted as the rebel's engines screeched to a halt and shots started to fill the air. The two soldiers armed their M.I.D.Ds on repel, hoping to deflect as many bullets as possible. In this setting the M.I.D.Ds would send out a repulsion shock wave instead of the explosive flame that came with the incendiary mode. The groups of people congregating around the prism broke into bouts of pandemonium. The rebel's shots resonated off the peacemaker's suits showering the rabble that stood too close with shrapnel. Many were gunned down in the first wave; their mangled bodies strewed across one another feeding the starving earth beneath with corporeal liquids.
Hudson had found shelter from the barrage behind one of the suited peacemakers and as the rebels paused to reload he made his move. Snug let out a little metallic shriek and Hudson gave it a gentle, reassuring tuck back into his coat. He spun around into the open facing the rebel cult. His sword drawn, Hudson raced towards the nearest vehicle with such swiftness that the driver and front passenger only had time to scream out, "Oh, SH-" as Hudson's claymore shattered the windshield. He felt the resistance of their skulls as his blade cut through. When their lifeless bodies doubled over their split cerebrums slipped from the cup of their scalps; blood basted Hudson's sword. He dove into the backseat as the vehicle on his left opened fire. One of the occupants was killed by a .50 cal landing in his eye socket showering the compartment with gore. Hudson pulled the remaining passenger out the back window with him.
The peacemakers hit the vehicle that had assaulted Hudson with a set of shockwaves forcing it over and crushing two rebels. As his fellow peacemakers advanced on the left car. The right had their eyes set on Hudson, but he was using the rebel he pulled through the rear window as a human shield. "B-oss, p-p-please!" the man's voice shook and was crumbled away in the aggressive howl of the wind. In the driver's seat kneeled the "Boss" of the rebels, her open hand raised in the air, motioning her soldiers to halt.
She was a curvy woman clad in torn combat leathers and assorted weaponry. Her brown hair was in a bob, showing her face in a way that would be attractive if she wasn't covered in grime. Her wide green eyes were the only vibrant part of her visage, living on the outside had visibly taken its toll. Her and Hudson glared at each other in a stalemate. "No, please...PLEASE!" yelled Hudson's meat buffer. She suddenly closed her hand and the group let loose; he felt every impact as the wriggling body against him erupted. A round shred across Hudson's cheek as he threw the now bullet-ridden corpse to the ground; the anarchist blood scoured him.
He ran across the barren terrain; ammunition whistled passed him notching his skin. The other Volcrum had finished their work and ran to his aid. The armored peacemakers sent rounds back at the rebels using their M.I.D.Ds and Hudson was no longer the main attraction. The Boss was a smart woman, she knew that Hudson would soon be behind them and with two peacemakers in front they would be finished. Deciding to cut her losses she signaled a retreat and the lone survivors barreled out of the fight.
The peacemakers sent a few shockwaves after them, but they were soon gone covered by thick clouds of sand. "Matthews, we need to get you inside." One of the peacemakers reached out his arm to help Hudson walk, but he refused it. "I'm fine, work on cleaning up this mess. If any legal citizens are injured make sure to get them treated." Hudson walked wearily back into the gate, blood sleeted from him peppering the ground. He raised a hand to Wes and Miles before they could ask. "I told you I'd be fine." The two had managed to regain order in the visa line and everything was moving smoothly as Hudson retook his place at the outgoing queue. Snug let out soft chirps, Hudson inconspicuously whispered back to his pet reassuring it the danger was over.
A relatively uneventful day ensued for the three peacemakers afterwards until the sun finally started to set. The rebel vehicles had been brought in for scrap and medical attention had been given to the injured. Hudson had been administered some bandages for his minor wounds; after a quick look over he was issued a clean bill of health. Much to his disdain, Snug had become confident again and was bouncing all over Hudson's shoulders causing laughter for children and adults alike in his line; the other Volcrum didn't seem to notice. From a distance a small imp caught Hudson's eye. He was middle aged with a mop of hair sprawled on his head. It was not his looks that caught Hudson's attention, rather his composure. He was sweating profusely and starring at his feet. Hudson knew that he made smaller species nervous, but even with the addition of the peacemaker covered in blood, this Imp was acting irregular.
As the Imp made his way up the line to Hudson, the small fellow started to shake. "You alright?" Hudson's question was stern. "Fine." the Imp whispered almost inaudibly, his pointy ears jerking at the authority in Hudson's voice. "Raise your right hand." Hudson scanned his hand, his record was clean, but the scanner picked up an illegal substance on his person. "You are in possession of water, you are charged with attempting to take a prohibited substance out of the prism." "No, you have to understand-" The Imp tried to run, but Hudson grabbed him by the neck before he had gone two paces. Snug made a series of angry tinks, Hudson wasn't sure if those tinks were for him or the Imp.
He resisted against Hudson's grip, but the peacemaker had the Imp lifted off the ground. "Wes! Take over my line, PS water." "I got it amicus!" Wes stammered excitedly. The Imp fought for as long as he could, eventually going limp letting Hudson drag him to the precinct. The military hospital could be found on the right while the penitentiary was on the left. Hudson walked in, was promptly acknowledged by another Volcrum peacemaker and directed to an empty cell. For the most part inmates were well behaved and quiet, a few would act up from time to time shouting at peacemakers as they passed, but nearly all the inmates would rather be in jail than exiled or executed.
He set the Imp in the cell lightly and closed the door. "Please sir, I have a family." The Imp didn't raise his eyes to the peacemaker. "We all do." Hudson's gaze burdened on the prisoner's shoulders as he spoke. "You are Facha Eini, 42, Wife Tie Eini, 40, Son Shota Eini, 7, Daughter Lela Eini, 6." "They will die without-" "The sentence for taking water out of the prism is-" "You must listen to me! My children-" Facha shook the cage with his small, scarred fists. "Under Tenet VII, you will be here for five years." Hudson dropped the verdict and watched as the poor man was crushed under it. The Imp curled into a ball thinking of his daughter's delicate fingers and her small wrists; if he imagined hard enough he could almost feel her. Who would hold her hand now? "Your family will be notified, I will send out an offer to your wife for a position in the textile factory. She will be able to work in your stead." "But sir!" The Imp gaped at him, his eyes glistening as the thought of his dead children buried on the side of the road filled his soul. "I am not required to make such a generous offer to the family of a criminal." Hudson's eyes softened, it was the most he could do. "I'll send them some water." With that he walked away from Facha's delirious sobbing.