scfi/fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Earth.
|Hudson exited the penitentiary, almost running over General Mou. "I thought I missed you Lieutenant Colonel, keep your darn radio on! Wes had to tell me where you were." "It won't happen again sir." A lie. "Is there something you needed me for?" Hudson despised having the constant radio chatter in his ear unless he needed to communicate with a squad. "I have a team trailing the Azure Bandit." Hudson's chest tensed. "Grab a Sauros and meet up with them. We can't loose any more peacemakers to this she-devil." Hudson bolted behind the precinct to where the Sauros were stabled.
Sauros were a Dragonian mount and had become work or battle beasts for humans since after the war. They averaged fourteen feet in length and seven feet in height. In appearance, they were best described as a cross between the komodo dragon and crocodile, with either dark brown or a reddish-yellow skin. The Sauros were kept in alloy stables, much like that of horses. Their large talons and teeth combined with a muscular tail would break a weaker enclosure with ease. The individuals on duty were kept tacked, making it easy to grab one during emergencies. The saddle was held on with two straps around the stomach and one around the base of the tail and neck. The halter was simple and wrapped around the head, it didn't contain a bit component. Riders normally used a tap method to direct Sauros, while the horn and reins kept the riders on.
"Hey lizard." Hudson put his hand on the snout of a brown Sauros named Krez. The reptile's chest vibrated with a pleasant hum at his touch; the two had bonded over a torrent of adventures. "Let's go for a ride." He climbed onto Krez and they galloped out of the stable gate. Hudson put a hand to his earpiece radio and accessed the open channel. "This is Matthews, I need an update on the Azure Bandit location." "Hey, it's Whitton, we've made contact on Mid 4th Street, west end." "Copy, I'll be there." Hudson adjusted his radio and set out to the top of the Medial district, the fastest way to 4th Street was through the market.
Krez galloped up one of the main stairways and people plunged out of the way for fear of being trampled. Snug almost flew off of Hudson's shoulder when they first entered the stairway, so the small machine decided it was best to hide inside of the peacemaker's jacket. They entered the market on 7th Street and right away crashed through a stall of rolund rounds covering the street in the sweet Ilvan pastries. Krez briskly managed to bound over a fruit cart that wheeled in front of them, but people had started to scream and clump up making it difficult for them to pass by. Not wanting to loose momentum, Hudson tapped Krez on the left signalling him to run on the buildings. The Sauros dug his claws into the stone walls that surrounded the market and Hudson stabilized himself by putting his stomach to the saddle.
Rock rained on the market as Krez decimated the buildings with his massive talons and vendors rushed to get their products out of the downpour. The market ran diagonally through the district; at one of the intersections Hudson pulled Krez up onto the rooftops. His mount could easily jump from one rooftop to the next and actually seemed to enjoy the workout. The Sauros purred gently as Hudson gave him a strong pat on the neck. They came upon the Azure Bandit and the unavailing Volcrum; the scene was crimson mayhem from their view.
She had skewered their Sauros through the breast and their dark blood enveloped the street. The men's drenched footprints depicted an account of sickening amusement verses muffled desperation. Two peacemakers were down and another was injured, but three more faced her. They were shaken; these soldiers had barely reached manhood and Whitton always had a hard time giving soldiers courage in the midst of death. They could smell his fear, taste his dismay; Whitton's face was an open book of doubt and in it the young men read their demise.
Hudson urged Krez down and they landed between the peacemakers and the Azure Bandit. The impact cracked the brick street; Krez curled his tail and slammed it on the ground as he let out a menacing roar towards the Bandit. The bottom half of her face was covered, but a smile flashed across her ice blue eyes. She was a Morgoth, the darker of the two cat-like species from Rishka. Her shadowy hair was pulled back around her silver and black feline ears; they were adorned by a multitude of circular earrings. She wore a tight, black leather suit covered with buckles and straps from her arms down to her legs. The suit split down to reveal her thick chest which was covered by a midnight blue elastic that reached up and over her nose to conceal her face. She had a matching blue side cape and satchel that hung from her right hip. Strapped on each side of her waist were her infamous blades; two kissaki moroha tantos.
With a sarcastic princess' wave she took off into the dark alleyways of the city. Hudson slapped the reins against Krez's neck and the Sauros bound after the Azure Bandit. "Matthews! Wait!" Whitton's plea fell on deaf ears, they were already immersed in the hunt. Krez rounded a corner and Hudson looked into a dark intersection. "Where is she?" Hudson whispered to himself. Krez's breath filled the alleys with heaving echos, making it hard for Hudson to pick up any sound and forcing him to turn off his radio. The peacemaker tightly held the hilt of his claymore and listened between the Sauros' breaths. The Azure Bandit was either waiting in the dark or long gone. Krez took an uneasy step to the left that caught Hudson by surprise. In the small intersection the Sauros' long tail caught on a corner jolting Hudson suddenly on the saddle; she took this as her chance to strike.
The Bandit blindsided Hudson, tackling him off of Krez's back. The two hit the ground and slid across the brick road. Krez cried a piercing screech, but was too cramped to help his rider. Hudson had barely drawn his sword in time. The bandit kneeled over him, both of her swords being held back from his neck by the claymore. Unfortunately, he was holding his weapon across his chest and the blade was slowly cutting into his left hand as the Azure Bandit continued to apply crushing pressure. How can she be this strong?! Hudson pushed her off of him, but split open his palm in the process. He jumped to his feet to face her, blood sprinkling the brick, but she was already on the move.
He teared after her, just in time to miss the calls of the Volcrum sent after him. Krez continued to wail, leading them right to where the skirmish had happened. She was hidden in the shadows from him, but he could somehow faintly hear her; the Azure Bandit was the definition of a lightfooted demon. The streets entered into an empty clearing. He gazed upon her as she crouched atop an exquisite fountain statue; old and worn the fountain hadn't spit water since his youth. With the moonlight against her back she shimmered like a fallen angel and Hudson dawned his weapon.
She stood on the statues head, meeting Hudson's challenge, her small feet cradling the figure. Her body perfectly straight, she started to lean forward. It was almost serene, the calm before the storm, as she fell from her perch. When her body touched the ground she rolled, swords tucked at her stomach, and used the momentum to lung at Hudson. He had never seen a Morgoth look more like a cat than now; her movements were rapid and her claws were sharpened for the kill. Their blades met; Hudson pushed her back with a powerful sweep. She flipped backwards, doing three back handsprings, her swords acting as a platform. What a show off. Hudson was actually smiling now despite himself. He didn't have her speed, but he did have reach and she knew that.
"Lieutenant Colonel Matthews!" "Matthews, are you out here?!" "Volcrum! Clear the area!" The reinforcement's cries started to ring around them. The Azure Bandit gave Hudson a brisk, sword handed salute then with a bound and a skip she was on her way. Not for a moment did Hudson consider retreating into the folds of the Volcrum, "I'm here! Now get moving!", he shouted to them as he chased after his smug criminal. He was gone and again the peacemakers missed him by a heartbeat. His claymore sheathed, he chased her as fast as he feet would fall, intent to stay on that silver tail.
As he rounded a corner, he caught sight of her jumping up the walls of two buildings and then flipping herself onto the rooftops; she taunted him with a whisk of her long tail. Hudson quickly surveyed the area; he was far too large to flip between walls. A cluster of old crates littered the side of a building and Hudson gingerly jumped up them onto the roof, the whole time hoping he wouldn't fall through and skewer his leg. A rooftop ahead she turned to face him, "I'm done playing for tonight, but let's do it again sometime."
"You're charged with 67 counts of homicide, 15 counts voluntary manslaughter, 75 counts of robbery and a combination of minor charges. " Hudson slowly drew his blade, approaching, as he spoke, "Surrender now and the court may choose to spare your life." "What an offer," She replied slyly, "don't you think?" She was talking to an imaginary person on her left, she's really crazy, in a moment her weapons were drawn and she was upon him. Her right tanto came up and was caught under his claymore, while her left would have decapitated him had he not ducked.
Hudson knew his only chance of survival was to disable her, but the only thing that came to mind would unarm him. He threw his claymore forward, which pushed her back and off balance. Before she could regain her footing, Hudson grabbed her right hand, slicing his forearm in the process with her blade. He could feel the bones of her wrist splintering against his skin as he pulled her towards him. He crushed her cheek with his other fist, her slender body bounced on the shingled roof and away from him. He could see the redness start to soak through her leather mask filling her eye. As she swayed to her feet the blood dripped down her front and she laughed delightfully at her own pain.
Her right tanto, along with his claymore, was between the two of them, but the left was still firmly in her hand. "You know," her voice had become dark and cynical, "I think I'll let you live. You're fun." She charged him, grabbed her tanto as she passed with her tail, and drew her blades in. Hudson grabbed a long knife from inside his jacket, but knew it couldn't defend him. When she was within his reach he attempted to slash her across the face, but she ducked under his arm and was almost against him. She cut open his chest with the tanto gripped by her tail, then stabbed him between his shoulder and his neck with her other blade.
She surprised Hudson by using her broken hand to cover his mouth, then she lifted herself up using the blade that was embedded in him. Snug peeked out of Hudson's pocket and started to pierce her hand with it's spidery legs, but to no avail. She flipped herself over him, driving the blade deeper and causing blood to rush up his throat, but it had nowhere to go. He dropped to his knees as she finally went over him and jumped off the roof. He started to cough up blood, the pain surging through his body, and that was the last thing he remembered.
"Oh, thank the White Tiger!" Cristo's voice echoed through Hudson's head. He flickered back to life, his vision was foggy at first, but the chamber slowly came into focus. He was in a small military hospital room, Cristo luring over him like a worried mother over her child and Snug was on his hand. "I'm fine, Cristo. Did they catch her?" Hudson threw off his sickeningly white blanket and started to get up. "What do you think you're doing?" Cristo put his hand on Hudson's arm and tried to set him down. "I'm going home, I don't need to be here." Hudson slipped off the bed and onto his feet, his body lurched and it was all he could do to not throw up on his friend.
Cristo caught him and Hudson tried to be considerate as he used the smaller man to steady himself. Cristo saw him wince, but hold back a cry of agony as he tried to move his shoulder. The Azure Bandit had cut right through his body and struck dangerously close to his brachial artery; he was lucky to be alive. He was lifted back onto his hospital bed and Cristo stayed attentive to his other arm which the Bandit had flayed. Hudson carefully started to pull on his uniform, freshly cleaned of his blood and stitched up.
"You didn't answer me." "No, they didn't catch her." Cristo replied helping Hudson with his coat. The peacemaker let out a heavy breath and went to open the door, but the knob jiggled and the door creaked open before he had a chance. A blonde Ilvan nurse entered the room; they believed in decorative scarification and her face showed it. The Ilvan people were long and awkwardly slender with broad hips and shoulders. Many humans found them attractive assimilating them into human culture almost seamlessly. She put a rough hand on Hudson, "I'm sorry, you haven't been discharged Lieutenant Colonel." Her long, curved ears wiggled as she tried to speak demandingly in a heavy Ilvan accent.
Hudson slapped her hand away and shot her a murderous glare; he didn't like being touched. "You can take it up with my superiors." He pushed himself through the door, Cristo right behind him apologizing to the young Ilvan. Hudson started to sway and Cristo came up to steady him, carrying Hudson out of the hospital. A quiet "Thank you," escaped Hudson as they left. "We won't make it back home like this." Cristo commented blankly; Cristo was fit, but Hudson was too heavy to support for long.
Hudson started to lead them toward the Sauros stables, "I'm going to grab a ride." Cristo kept his mouth shut. He stopped trying to argue with Hudson when they were kids, at least on some things. When the two entered the stables, Krez made a loud yelp; the Sauros could smell his favorite rider before he entered the building. "Hey, lizard." Hudson put a hand across Krez's scaly snout. The beast was already saddled and Hudson summed up all his strength to gracefully lift himself up and onto Krez's back. The wounded peacemaker wasn't fooling Cristo, but his loyal friend pretended not to notice Hudson's wincing. Snug decided to stay behind with Cristo, the last Sauros ride hadn't been an enjoyable one.
The ride back home was undemanding, yet still painful. Hudson could feel his skin tearing with every rise of Krez's feet; the popping of his flesh against the stitches felt like fish eggs where hatching inside him. Once the agonizing climb up to his apartment was over, Hudson's suspicions were confirmed. Most of his wounds had reopened and blood was soaking through. Hudson grabbed a cigarette, his only guilty pleasure, sat on his bed and started to tear off his old bandages. As he re-wrapped himself, soft morning sunlight bathed him in warmth. He had been at the military hospital for three days and, no doubt, Cristo had been by his side the whole time. How do you repay a someone for their brotherhood, especially when you don't deserve it? Hudson mulled over it as his lungs filled with rich smoke. With one last exhale, he put out his cigarette and fell asleep, half covered and half bandaged.
Hudson slept for the rest of the day and woke up the following morning to someone fiddling with his knob. He grabbed the balisong that he kept under his pillow and flipped it open. He crept into the living room and stood in front of the door, ready for whoever was trying to get in. With a few last fidgets the door swung open and Hudson thrust his knife in an assault that ended mere inches from Cristo's face. "Where is your key?" Hudson asked, annoyed, as he turned away and headed into the kitchen. "Oh sorry. I guess on my way to bring you this homemade soup that I slaved over I misplaced it. It's a shame I don't have a Volcrum brother that could teach me how to pick locks smoothly, so I wouldn't have to wake anyone up." The sarcasm dripped thick from Cristo's tongue like syrup.
"Thanks for the soup." Hudson said, half begrudgingly and almost kindly. He leaned over the kitchen counter, openly in pain. "You should try to eat something." Cristo pleaded, as he placed the soup on the counter. To indulge Cristo, Hudson took a couple bites. It was good, but he truly wasn't hungry. He ate once a week and it was always a lot of food, Hudson knew it wasn't normal, but he just wasn't capable of eating every day. He even had instances where he ate once a month. A moment of silence passed between them, "Say what you want to say." Hudson pressured with a sigh. "I, well...you need to see a doctor." Cristo didn't meet Hudson's gaze.
"I've been injured before.
"Just get something for the pain."
"I'm a soldier, Cristo. Pain is part of the job description."
"Please? You remember my cousin Alli, she works at a clinic now."
"Like I need more of you in my life."
"She works for a beautiful doctor!"
"Please, do this for me so I can have a little peace of mind."
He had pulled the all powerful "do it for me" card, "Fine, I'll go. Once." "Yes! Hurry and get dressed, lets go!" Cristo ambled around the apartment, grabbing things he thought Hudson would need: shoes, jacket, assorted weaponry, etc."Right now?" "Right Now!" Oh, White Tiger, what was I thinking? He had this planned. Hudson rolled his eyes, threw on a button-up shirt and slacks, then headed out the door with Cristo. On the way down the stairs he draped on his Volcrum jacket and claymore that Cristo had been excitingly holding for him. Hudson knew that all Cristo wanted to do was help, he only vaguely hated him for it. Snug took it's chance to crawl out from Cristo's vest and jump into Hudson's hair. Hudson couldn't really lift his one arm and the other was shredded, so he let the mechanoid bug stay there.
The duo entered into the market on Mid 7th Street that Hudson and Krez had devastated a couple nights ago. The vendors were set up as usual and the place was a bustling cornucopia of people, but the damage was far from repaired. Most of the stone was heaped into large piles and the kiosks were strategically placed around them to assume the facade of normality. The crowds parted to make way for the peacemaker and Candidate; Cristo brought them to the very end of the street. There was a building there that broke the uniformity of the neighborhood. It was a small, simple square clinic with sliding doors and windows. The whole thing seemed to be made of a light colored wood, but Hudson knew that couldn't be.
The men went through the sliding door to the surprise of a young nurse. She was tall and fair skinned with wide green eyes. Her dishwater blonde hair was in a loose bun and threads were draped around her cheekbones."AH!! Cuz!" She threw her arms open and cheerily embraced Cristo. "Oh, it has been too long!" Cristo said as he returned her affection with a big, bear hug. "How is Aunt Sonya?" "Oh, mom is great! Her new boyfriend just took her out to the Upper district, they had so much fun." "That's great to hear, I've always worried about her." Cristo's voice sounded genuinely relieved. Should I kill myself right now? Hudson thought to himself as he writhed in mental anguish. "I love your vest Cristo, you always look so fashionable." "Thank you and you look purely beautiful." I am in a clinic, they would probably just revive me anyway.
"Ms. Yewth, what's all the commotion in here?" An eloquent voice resonated from behind the group. "Oh, Lady Tokio. You know my cousin Cristophe and this is this Hudson Matthews." Hudson was stunned. Lady Tokio was the doctor that Cristo had spoken of. She was a Morgoth with striking feminine features and her long black hair was wrapped elaborately around a series of ceramic hairpins. She wore an embellished kimono loosely over her shoulders and tightly around her waist. Her body was covered with tattoo of lace and foreign designs with T0K10 plainly stamped around her neck.
It was not her looks that caught Hudson's eye, but something far more mortifying. "What in the world happened?!" Cristo exclaimed sharing in some of Hudson's shock. The woman had a sling around her arm, her wrist and hand were heavily bandaged. Half of her face was thickly bruised and was marred by multiple stitching. The eye on that side was covered, but the other was an ice blue that pierced the soul of lesser men. Lieutenant Colonel Matthews and the Azure Bandit faced each other once again, the silence was deafening as Cristo's question went unanswered. "Lady Tokio, are you alright?" Noticing the mutual look between her and Hudson. "Do you two know each other?" Cristo voice cut through the unsteadiness like a knife.
Hudson realized they must have been staring at one another for quite some time. He opened his mouth not really sure what he would say; Cristo knew this woman and liked her, he couldn't accuse or attack her right in front of him for seemingly no reason. "Actually, yes. He saved me from the Azure Bandit a couple days ago." Lady Tokio intervened before Hudson could get any words out, "I was viciously attacked and this Volcrum peacemaker saved me, but he ran off too quickly for me to thank him. I see you did not escape unscathed." "The only person who escaped, like a coward, was the Azure Bandit and she is worse for wear." Hudson snapped back smugly. "Well, from what I have seen and heard she is far more skilled than any peacemaker. It is alright to admit defeat, there is always someone better out there." Tokio's voice rang with snideness. "I will hunt her down and I will kill her." "Oh, I'm sure everyone would love to see you try that." Their voices had become louder and louder over the course of the conversation and they were now mere inches apart.
"So, anyway, Lady Tokio, Mr. Matthews needs treatment, I'm pretty sure that's why they came." Alli pipped up delicately. "And I think we'll just wait out here." Cristo added while he shot Hudson a confused frown and took Alli outside. "Well, come on in." Tokio beckoned with a curl of her tail. She kneeled down next to a medical cot inside one of the small rooms. "If I wanted you dead I would have already killed you." She stated stoutly in a vain attempt to reassure Hudson who was lingering outside the door. In spite of his doubts he took off his jacket and sat down on the cot.
Tokio started to undress his wounds, which were swollen and inflamed, as best she could with one hand. As she laid her hand on him Snug jumped out of his hair and tried to attack her, but she seized it in mid air. "It's alright little one." Her voice sent a soothing chill through Hudson's spine. It must have done the same for Snug as well, because for both of them let their guard down. He couldn't believe that this was the same woman. Her finger tips glided across his skin like feathers and he didn't feel an instant of pain throughout the whole ordeal. She restitched many of his wounds then applied a natural ointment to relieve the pain and swelling.
"Now, I am sending you with a bowl of this." It was light and creamy ointment with the consistency of yogurt. "You need to apply it as you change you bandages, THREE times a day." "You say that like you know I won't." Hudson was more curious about her than anything at this point. "I've seen how you face death, I know you better than anyone else. You won't." He wasn't sure what to say to her, she devoted her days to saving lives and her nights to taking them. "I am also sending you with this, drink a cup of this every day until it's gone. It will help fight any infection." The substance was green, chunky and smelled of fish, the look Hudson gave her must have been obvious. "You are my patient and I am responsible for your life. In this I will never betray you." She looked deep into his eyes as she said this and he took the confection trustingly.
"Do you honestly believe I'm leaving here without bringing you in?" Hudson asked, looking up at her in astonishment. Did she think they would play this scene through and he would just walk away? He didn't want to upset Cristo, but he was outside now which would make her arrest much smoother. "Well, to be completely truthful, yes." She stated frankly to him. "Excuse me?" was the only response he could muster. "Listen," she explained, "last year I did a non-stop 16 hour artificial heart transplant on General Mou's woman; in the middle of the night. Then I watched over her for two weeks to make sure her body would accept the transplant, I saved her life when no one even knew she was dying the day before. I've treated the Chancellor and his grandchildren, as well as, many people from the Upper district. Why do you think a Morgoth would be allowed to live in the prism if she wasn't considered necessary?"
Tokio gave him a moment to take it in before she continued again, "What I'm trying to tell you is, you are going to need more proof then your sworn testament that you think I'm the Azure Bandit to have me arrested. I, on the other hand, can prove you're the one who did this." She was pointing to her face. What she said was true, his knuckles were bruised in to the skin, even the indent of a metal band he wore was there. There would be very few people, if any in the prism, who's hands would be that big. "You'll have to catch me in the act. I know it and, more importantly, you know it."
"I'll make it easy for you though because I hate when we are apart for too long." She had a sly curl on her lips, "maybe in, lets say, three weeks? I heard that there is this beautiful necklace on display at the Warsong. Why don't we go see it together?" "Do you usually let peacemakers know about your heists?" Hudson was annoyed with her now, he didn't like being played with. "Come now, you know your special," she said with a wink. "I can bring a department of soldiers, you're setting yourself up for a trap." Hudson fumed, her underestimation of his abilities was offending. She believed he couldn't catch her even if she told him how to. "Let's be honest with one another, " she said to him calmly, "this is a personal vendetta now. You don't want anyone else to catch me and, more so, you don't want to see me alive. We know there is only one way for this to really end."
With that Tokio rose and Hudson followed suit, they walked out and said goodbyes as if nothing ever happened. A look of scolding flashed across Cristo's face as he met his friend, rightfully embarrassed at Hudson's skilled first impression with the doctor. Hudson all the while was lost deep in thought as they walked back to his apartment, not evening noticing Cristo's dismay.
When the women had lost sight of them Alli erupted suddenly, "Lady Tokio! What was that? He knows, you know he knows right, how does he know? What are we going to do about this?" Tokio had already headed back inside the clinic, "Nothing really." "My Lady, he basically knows everything, that's worth knowing, about you! Every second he has an opportunity to end your life!" Alli was pleading. Tokio sat at an open window, starring across the bleak city. "There is no life without death, don't you understand that? No, I guess you wouldn't. All of your days are filled with a infinitude of possibilities and inevitabilities; my life is not the same. I see death, but he never seems to see me. What excitement is there in living a life that is always takes the same path?" Tokio said distantly with a smile, as she tuned out Alli and prepared for Warsong.