Checking your Paddy Power betting history – Racing Post

Material Differences Ch 47

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Chapter 1
Chapter 46
“Hold up.” Jaeger raised a hand to get Tami to stop in place behind him in the hallway. Just ahead of him one of the slaved trooper bots stepped forward and was cut down immediately by gunfire. “Max I have hostiles at junction-”
“I’m already on it. Bertha is en route. ETA momentarily.” Max quickly let him know, and shortly after he said it Jaeger heard an explosion followed by screaming as the tunnels were filled with the sound of the classic Void Forever march.
“Unit designation Jaeger. This junction is clear. Hostile presence is diminishing quickly. Forward to victory.” Jaeger took a quick look out into the hall to ensure that Bertha was correct. He saw the massive assault bot stomping forward while the smaller trooper bots swarmed around her, all the while the inspiring patriotic military band music blared.
“This way.” Jaeger waved Tami forward then as she clamped her hands over her ears even more firmly.
“WHY IS THERE MUSIC!?” Without smartplugs for her ears he could only imagine how loud the music must be for her. Never mind all the gunfire and explosions echoing through the tight tunnels.
“The bots have initiated a communist uprising. Can’t you tell?” He replied as she squinted at him.
“WHAT?!” He just shook his head and waved her forward crossing the hall while still flanked by trooper bots. He was doing his best to get her to the central structure so he could get her back up to the command center and safety, but it was slow going. To make matters worse the combat drugs still pulsing through his veins left him feeling a bit sweaty inside his armor. Sweaty and hot. Sweaty, hot, and aggressive. The faint echoes of possible hostiles being chased down by Bertha and her swarm of troopers made him want to join the hunt, but he knew better than to give in.
He still wanted to know what had happened up top involving some kind of crab bot. Could it really be the one from the city? Why was it here? What did it have to do with the fight? Keeping to the less populated tunnels as they moved through the underground he had to step over broken bots, and dead Draugr in equal measure. Though he paused as he saw some of their equipment. Reaching down he picked up what looked to be a standard M539 LMG one of them had been using. “What is it?” Tami asked, now able to talk clearly away from the sounds of battle.
“I’m curious.” Jaeger announced and slowly turned the weapon over in his hands before pointing to a stamp in the casing. “It’s got a stamp from the Binary weapon foundries. But it’s newer than the war because it’s also got the Ragnarok insignia. I’m just trying to figure out where Marque’s gear is coming from.” He tossed the weapon aside then and began to look some of the bodies over more closely.
“Can this wait… until I’m not standing in a pool of blood and guts and shit?” Tami asked, looking around nervously.
“Oh right.” Jaeger started to rise, but then paused a moment to grab a flower that had been tucked into the collar of one of the Draugr’s uniforms. It looked familiar… but he couldn’t place it. Tucking it into a pouch he started moving forward again. “I don’t suppose you have any insight into where they were coming from before this attack began?”
“Me? No. I’ve been trying to untangle your comms once Ham gave me access. Did you know you had… hundreds of frequency channels opened for some reason? I can’t tell if some process was making more or why they weren’t closed out. The fact your system could handle it is impressive but… also just… disgusting in a systems admin perspective. I couldn’t even determine that the vast majority of them were being used.” Jaeger glanced back as Tami rambled on a bit while they walked.
“What are you talking about? Our voice comms? There shouldn’t be that many open channels…” Had something been going on with the system before the reset? Was there a leak? What did that even mean? Some rogue bot? But Marque hadn’t known he was alive until recently. Paranoia began to creep through his thoughts as he wondered about the possible reasons for the tangled comms.
“Well how often did you wipe the frequency channels? Or purge the channel history?” She asked next which made him blink.
“What do you mean? If I’m ever opening a channel it’s just… whatever the tab is in the UI. Should just be a command channel, and an all channel. Though the command channel hasn’t mattered since the war obviously.” Now Jaeger was trying to look harder at his UI, which of course was hard as his eyes wanted to twitch thanks to the drugs.
“You never clear them? That doesn't purge the old frequencies! Are you telling me for a decade you’ve just been opening new channels every time you put on your armor?” Tami gasped out. “How did you not know how to do that?! You’re a Revenant!”
“Yeah, I’m a Revenant! Not a tech! We had people for that! Ask Ham! He’s our nerd!” Jaeger’s paranoia quickly began to drift over to defensive anger.
“If by nerd you mean the only tech savvy individual on your team then you should be thankful he kept this place running as long as he did! Did you just turn on all your maintenance bots and assume that’ll take care of everything?!” She asked then as he very distinctly didn’t look back. “Oh my god! You did! Didn’t you?!”
“Listen I was busy raising my kids! So I opened new comms tabs! The fuck is it to you?! I was busy killing scavs and trying to hold onto what little civilization still existed! I don’t have to explain myself to you!” Jaeger huffed.
“What happened to the other people here at the facility? This place obviously wasn’t meant to be run by bots and two adults for a decade!” Jaeger was getting more antsy about finding some hostile contacts the longer this conversation lasted. But the closer they got to the center the safer it became.
“The compound was evacuated in the very early parts of the war. We returned near the end, and just made due with what we had. It’s not like we were exactly swimming in techs and engineers or whatever. We lost most of who we still had in the assault on the central hub! So you’re fucking welcome for defeating the Hive alright!” Jaeger hissed back at her.
“A problem Absolute Dynamics is totally responsible for!” Tami countered immediately. Jaeger just huffed at that and forced himself to remain silent. He knew the irritation edging up through him was part of the drugs. Why was he mad about being told he needed to clean up his comms? It was a small issue, more to laugh at. But as he kept stomping along he had to deal with that voice in the back of his mind raging about charging into battle and killing every Draugr he could find.
Finally though he saw the door he’d been looking for. The crumpled security door that the assassin bot had first broken through, and then Bertha had kicked back out. Peering inside the bot bay for a moment he didn’t see anything threatening and waved Tami forward. “Well, thanks for fixing… whatever you could fix before all this.” He felt a bit like a child being forced to utter an insincere apology, but the problem was he was the one forcing himself to say it.
“You’re welcome.” Tami replied as they moved forward through the empty bays. The trooper bots still keeping a perimeter around them. “Is… that the assassin bot you mentioned?” Tami asked as they stepped past the hulk that Bertha personally deactivated earlier.
“Another one yeah. Dumbass bot design if you ask me. It’s too small. I don’t care how advanced the material is, assault bots like Bertha outclass her in too many regards. She’s not strong enough to win hand to hand and she’s not faster than an autocannon.” Jaeger mentioned as he shook his head a moment.
“Well, it’s supposed to be an assassin right? I imagine they figure guards are more likely to ignore a teen girl right? Less threatening?” Tami pointed out.
“Maybe thirty years ago. During the shadow wars, and the actual war girls were far more often used for suicide bombings. Pretty much any time we dealt with Hive or Davari it was nearly regulation to shoot girls of that age on sight. I mean not like… on sight, on sight but like… just…” Jaeger waved a hand vaguely. “If they were wearing lumpy clothes and near a battle they should be running away from.”
“Holy shit…” Tami muttered softly. “Doesn’t that bother you?” She asked next.
“What? I mean it sucked. But it’s war. It’s comprised entirely of suck.” Jaeger snorted.
“But you have a girl that age. You don’t think about how you killed girls like Raven?” Tami gave him a worried look as they began to ascend the stairs towards the main lobby.
“I don’t enjoy killing kids. But sometimes it has to be done. I also have a son, you’re not asking if I disliked killing boys that age. I’m also a father! Shouldn’t you ask if I hate killing other dads? Or mothers? Shouldn’t… shouldn’t you just ask how I feel about killing in general? Fuck! If someone is strapped with explosives and determined to kill you and your buddies does it matter what age they are? Or gender? Or even fucking species?! Sometimes it’s kill or be killed. And I’d rather kill.” Jaeger clutched his gun tighter for a moment as they made it to the top of the stairs.
Yes, he would rather kill. The lobby was safe. He could just send her on her way and go out and join the fray. These assholes were here to kill his family and friends. They needed to die. Marque needed to die. Everyone involved… He forced himself to relax his fingers slowly and untense his shoulders, rolling them back a moment as he looked over at Tami behind him. He could see how anxious she was, one hand out just a little as if she was debating reaching to touch his arm. Was she worried for his soul? Or was she worried she’d be next? “We’re almost safe. Just got to cross the lobby.”
The trooper bots fanned out before them as they crossed over and she looked at the dead hostile Revenant in the middle. “Is that one of-”
“No. One of Marque’s. No idea who he was. Don’t slip in the shit.” They’d been walking through plenty of blood and guts in the tunnels but Tami made an effort to step around the bodies this time. Jaeger took a moment to look out the main windows at the tracers flashing in the distance. It looked like they were being pushed back. There were the charred remains of the man he had watched earlier. A human reduced to bristly burnt charcoal.
He could still go… Still join the fray. His blood still felt like it was boiling inside his veins as the drugs did everything they were supposed to do. Suppress pain, suppress empathy, hell suppress self. All that should remain is a husk ready to kill. No… not just ready to kill. Aroused by it. Thrilled by it. Driven by it… That’s why they didn’t use just bots. Bots didn’t get giddy and excited to murder dissidents. Here he was years after Odinson was dead, and that voice deep within him would just never shut up… “Jaeger?”
Turning he saw Tami at the door to the security checkpoint and moved to follow. “Coming.” Even as his body screamed at him to run out that door and find someone to kill he moved up the stairs with Tami, the trooper bots hanging back now to set up a defensive position inside the checkpoint just in case. Once they had stepped into the command center he saw Max was still hooked up. Figs was in the corner, his armor partially stripped off as Tanya tended to him. Looked like he’d been hit pretty hard, his arm was off just like he’d said.
“Hey sarge.” He waved his dismembered arm when he saw Jaeger enter the room, which made Jaeger sigh and shake his head.
“Max what were you saying earlier about a crab bot?” He ignored Figs for now, not wanting to hear the dozens of hand puns he was positive Figs had prepared.
“Oh c’mon sarge you’re not going to give me a hand?!” Figs accused, already trying to force those puns upon him anyway.
“Tanya could you up his morphine levels so he shuts up?” Jaeger asked.
“He’s a synth, he’s not on any morphine.” Tanya reminded him.
“But I will take some! Now’s a great time for drugs!” He then extended the dismembered arm he was holding to point it at Raven who was nervously watching him. “Hey Raven! Pull my finger.”
“The crab bot.” Jaeger reiterated then as he looked at Max hooked up to the command chair.
“I didn’t understand what was going on at first. I thought it was just one of the loose bots requesting network access at first. I didn’t realize what it was until one of their last intact landers was trying to offload its cargo on the road and the crab bot grabbed the door and stopped it from opening.” Max explained.
“Seriously? It just… walked up and broke the door?” Jaeger asked.
“Yeah. I don’t think the landing ramp was ever intended to be opened while a crab bot was pinning it shut. It was too close in for the lander to use any guns. They sent a few troops after it but it just stabbed some of them with the weathervane until I got more bots in position to cover it.” Even as Max explained that Spike was chirping away on Jaeger’s shoulder.
“What does he mean about a friend? Bots don’t have friends.” Tami was asking as she listened to the little bot.
“That’s just how he refers to bots he’s hacked. Don’t think about it.” Jaeger immediately insisted. “But yes Spike I can’t imagine there are two crab bots with weathervanes.”
“Ham told me about this! Do you seriously never wipe your bots?! This can’t be good! The Shanghai accords exist for a good reason you know!” Tami waved her hands as she stressed the point Jaeger had heard a million times now.
“Yes they exist for a reason and I don’t care! I’m not wiping Spike! Bots are better than most organics anyway! They can have friends and dreams if they want to! Back off lady!” Jaeger snapped at her as she backed up and gulped in worry.
“Damn sarge who pissed in your cornflakes?” Figs asked, thankfully not making another hand joke.
“Sorry… sorry… I’m just… it’s the combat drugs. Making me… feel like my blood is hot and sweaty… and just… Well you fucking know how I get!” He waved a hand at them for a moment.
“Is that all? You’re back up in safety now you don’t need them.” Tanya reminded him and before he could reply he saw her bring up the medical menu in his UI before she selected the detox routine.
“Wa-” Was as far as Jaeger got before he felt the needle sink into his neck and all his energy seemed to just drain out of his body. All the pain came flooding back, and he suddenly felt like he hadn’t slept in years. He couldn’t even try and go for a chair. Everything was spinning… but in slow motion. Who was messing with the remote? His legs just buckled a little as he hadn’t locked up the suit servos and he slowly and pitifully collapsed forward onto his face.
“Shit Tanya! Did you just kill sarge?” Figs asked in surprise.
“Dad!” Raven was already rushing to his side to clutch at his arm, trying to roll him over, but between his own bulk and the armor it wasn’t happening.
“What? No, I didn’t kill him! I know you can see his vitals! He’s just… All I did was detox him! He was complaining about the combat drugs!” She waved a hand at Jaeger and moved over to slowly roll him onto his side, tucking one arm under his head and angling a leg to shift him into the recovery position.
“The man is baseline, he’s in his 40s, has been engaged in combat over the last few days, is suffering a number of injuries, and probably hasn’t had good sleep in a week and you just do him dirty like that? Tanya, that’s cold.” Figs shook his head and wagged his dismembered arm at her scoldingly.
“Ow.” Jaeger finally spoke as his brain seemed to move beyond being stuck in slowmo. “I’m… just… gonna lie here… for a while…”
“You do that sarge. Raven your dad is fine. He’s just… a lot more tired than I expected.” Tanya was gently stroking Raven’s hair to try and soothe her as they crouched over Jaeger.
“Should we get him out of his armor?” Raven asked, casting a worried glance at her dad lying on the ground.
“Leaving him in it is best. It’ll make sure he’s just fine.” Tanya informed her and then tugged Raven’s hand to get her to move back.
“Jus… minute…” Jaeger quietly muttered. He’d drift off to sleep any moment now. He’d see Leona in his dreams. When he woke up he’d be feeling much better. Yes. Sleep. Any… moment… Why wasn’t he asleep yet? He began to feel as if he wasn’t properly within his body anymore. It was like he was sitting just behind himself. His eyes providing a distant tiny view of the world around him. Feet were moving. Not often. But he could hear shuffling. Distant talking sometimes. They were no doubt trying to be quiet for him.
Right. It was time to sleep now. He was very tired. Someone shifted the vision ports around as he tried to peer through them to see what was going on, but it all seemed so distant… This wasn’t ideal… he’d give it another minute. Then he’d get up because this was getting boring. How had he not fallen asleep? He was infamous for being able to take battle naps pretty much whenever he wanted! Why was his hand moving?
Oh he was probably doing that. His armored fingers slowly dragging against the floor of the command center before he finally got his hand closed into a fist. His other arm… where was it? On his side. Right. He carefully began to move that hand out as well, also curling his fingers into a fist. Then he shifted his legs, flopping over more directly onto his face from his side where Tanya had rolled him over. His muscles felt like they were quivering with exhaustion after a prolonged workout but he slowly pushed down and very shakily rose up to his feet.
“I’m up.” He announced as his mind seemed to reorient itself. He was no longer sitting just behind himself. His body hurt… but slowly opened and closed his hands, curled and uncurled his toes, and established that this was his body.
“Good to see you up sarge.” Brandy-Lynn gave his shoulder a pat as she stepped up next to him.
“When did you get here?” Jaeger asked and looked around seeing the command chair was empty. Figs wasn’t in the corner. What was going on?
“An hour ago? You know you’ve been lying on the floor for like… three hours right?” Jaeger blinked as he looked at Brandy-Lynn and then around the room slowly.
“It was like… five minutes.” Looking down at his hands he opened and closed them again. Where was his gun?
“You were deep in some hole. Your brain needed it obviously. Want to counter that with more drugs?” A grin spread easily across her face as she asked him that.
“No.” While there were a great many things he would love right now, using more drugs was about as far from desirable as it could get. “Battle?” He asked even as he slowly and carefully moved over to take a seat on the chair Figs had used earlier that was actually designed for someone in power armor.
“It’s been over for a while. Just a lot of mopping up. By the time you came back up in here it was pretty much done. Neither side knew it of course. I’ll hand it to Marque. He's made some fanatical scavs that’s for sure.” Brandy-Lynn shook her head a bit as she took a seat across from Jaeger.
“Prisoners? Wounded?” Jaeger asked next as his brain seemed to start processing things properly once more. Even if it was a bit delayed.
“I did just mention fanatics right? None of them surrendered. The ones who didn’t just outright fight to the death took pills. Tabori did the usual Tabori bullshit where he found one of the guys who had killed himself with a pill, had like… foam around his mouth. Anyway Tabori scooped up a bit of the foam on his pinky and then licked it and squinted like this.” She made a face trying to imitate the sniper. “Almonds.” She hisses out in his usual exaggerated accent before laughing. “Oohhh Tabori… Fucking goofball.”
“In the lobby…” Jaeger’s body was slowly pulling itself together from a million different places as he began to feel alive all over again.
“No one we knew.” She shook her head, figuring he was talking about the hostile Revenant he’d helped Max kill earlier. “Tanya was trying to organize some impromptu autopsies but Max wasn’t feeling like playing commander at that point so I dunno if she organized the bots for it yet or not. Seemed like they were mostly human. Though that Revenant guy and the commanders were certainly pumping a variety of steroids and enhancers. Also their protein bars are annoyingly good.”
That last bit made Jaeger frown as he gave Brandy-Lynn a look. Even with his helmet on she could no doubt sense this as she shrugged. “Look I was fucking hungry. You know how hungry you can get in combat.”
As if that was the magic words to reawaken his digestion system Jaeger’s stomach let out a low deep grumble. “Fuck I’m hungry…”
“Figured.” She reached into a pocket pulling out a rather familiar olive drab pouch to toss to him. Carefully catching it he set it in his lap and then removed his helmet, tugging the smart cloak back as he did. “Fuck bud you look like shit.” Was the first thing she said as she saw his face.
“How bad is it?” He asked, not wanting to look even as he opened the food pouch she’d given him.
“Bad. Like uh… Shit. You look like complete shit.” She shrugged then as he sighed and looked at the bar inside the pouch. It had some kind of yellowish gold coating. He carefully and gingerly pulled it up to his mouth to take a bite and then gave her a surprised look as he crunched on it.
“Salted caramel?” He frowned as he tried to read the package. Sure enough ProBar Ration 5 Salted Caramel.
“Right?” Brandy-Lynn nodded. “They’re like candy but they’ve got a ton of protein and good shit in them. I found red velvet, peanut butter chocolate, lemon bar, and a few others. I’d say they’re even better than those cashew based ones we used to get. These have like… a light wafer crunch or something to them.”
Jaeger looked at the protein bar in his hand before he took another careful bite. He noticed then that his mouth was an arid wasteland and coughed a moment. Brandy-Lynn seemed ready though and handed him a canteen. He took a careful sniff, couldn’t tell what it was, and took a swig anyway. Gulping down the sweet juice he shuddered a moment and then took another gulp before handing it back. “Fruit juice?”
“Better than water.” Brandy-Lynn grinned as she took it back and took a swig herself. “PURG. Passion, Ushi fruit, rock orange, and guava. Good shit.”
“There might be concerns over it spoiling.” Jaeger weakly muttered but was already feeling much better as the sugar and protein were no doubt much welcomed by his abused body. Feeling more coordinated by now he stood up, waiting a moment to see if the room was spinning. Once he didn’t fall over he grabbed his helmet. “Where is everyone?”
“Downstairs.” Brandy-Lynn got up and led the way. Jaeger was mostly walking thanks to the servos in the armor doing the work for him but he managed to make it downstairs no problem. Trooper bots were standing around in the lobby, with two heavy bots outside. The bodies had been dragged outside, blood smeared around as two of the googly-eyed cleaner began to tend to the mess.
Such happy looking little bots… Cleaning up all that blood without a care… Good for them. As they moved on into the cafeteria he was glad to see only a few windows had been shattered by bullets, and some maintenance bots were already patching them up. He’d put a lot of effort into making the compound look abandoned, now they were going about making it look clean and fresh once more. The others were sitting around one of the cafeteria tables, a variety of frozen food having been cooked and set out.
“Hey it’s Sarge!” Figs waved… why the fuck was his arm white? Jaeger stared at the now mismatched Figs even as Raven got up from where she had been sitting to run over and hug Jaeger as best she could through his armor. He carefully gave her head a pat, and then picked her up a bit to walk over and sit down with the others. “Wwooooow. You look like shit.” Figs immediately said.
“That’s what I said!” Brandy-Lynn sat down nearby and grabbed a hamburger from a pile of them, then opened it up to add some chicken nuggets, ranch, and potato chips before smooshing it all back down to start eating like the degenerate she was.
“Wow. Dad you do look… bad.” Max mentioned from across the table, looking rather tired himself.
“This is why we always appreciated having your dad around to remind us of our former humanity.” Figs nodded slowly and crossed his arms as he leaned on the table. Jaeger stared at his new, smaller, white arm once more. “Yeah this is all you had spare.” He finally explained.
“Didn’t we just get a bunch of synthflesh?” Jaeger asked looking around for Tanya while Raven still clutched his side, not letting go.
“I’m not wasting it on him.” Tanya was walking back in from the kitchen with a large pot of recaff as the others began to hold up mugs for her to pour into.
“I kinda need it.” Figs protested even as she filled his cup with the dirty brown liquid of life. “Thanks. But yeah I mean people are going to ask questions if I go out looking like this.”
“We can get you a new arm some other way. I got that synthflesh so Raven and Max could use it. Not you.” Tanya explained with a huff as she took a seat before a bowl of some kind of instant noodles. Then as she looked at Jaeger she arched a brow. “Wow, you do look like hell.”
“Thank you. Anyone else want to tell me I look like ass?” Jaeger grumbled as he looked around.
“Ass would be improvement. Your face more resemblent of roadkill scraped off street to add meat to borsch.” Tabori helpfully added as he tended to his own little espresso pot at the end of the table.
“You look like you were in a car accident or something. Is he okay?” Tami looked to be the only one who showed any concern as she sat by Ham, who had been eyeing Jaeger carefully so far. Was he going to say something about the bots? The pilot had now seen Jaeger’s un-memory wiped army of robots in action, which might not be a good thing.
“Sigil seven. When you were really sick.” Ham finally spoke up before taking a sip of his mug of recaff. “That’s what it looks like.”
“Ooohhh yeeeaaah.” Figs nodded and wagged a finger at him. “That’s it. When you made us all very aware of how fragile you are and also so very glad we aren’t human anymore. Uh er… baseline.” He corrected after a moment and shiftily looked around the table as if it was a conspiracy.
“How bad was it?” Max asked as he glanced around.
“Rul bad.” Brandy-Lynn muttered around a mouthful of chicken nugget, ranch, potato chip, hamburger.
“I was very sick…” Jaeger nodded thinking back on the time in question. “Worse yet we were mid mission so it’s not like I could get out of there. We were in this… cheap… awful little apartment… I was already on the can, being miserable, when I realized I had to vomit. But there was such volume that I ended up blowing chunks out my nose in the process.”
“Uugghhh!” “Aaawwwh...” “Eeewww!” “Grooosssss!” All around him was a cacophony of disgusted reactions, while even Raven let go his side and leaned back, rubbing at her own nose reflexively.
“Noooo! I can smell it!” She wailed and shook her head to try and dislodge the thought.
“Yeah that’s synth programming. When people say they can smell a memory? You guys get the same actual sensation. Have fun.” Jaeger couldn’t help but let out a slow chuckle as he had disgusted everyone at the table. Except Brandy-Lynn who was also giggling, as bits of her Franken-Burger spat out. “Chew with your mouth closed Brandy-Lynn. Jesus you’re such a pig.”
“Oink oink oink!” She snorted at him and made a show of a big mouthful of partially chewed food.
“Yeah, your dad really helps remind us to appreciate regular people. I mean this baseline human followed around a bunch of super humans through combat for a decade and a half. Plus he would actually get sick sometimes!” Ham shook his head a moment.
“We get sick.” Max replied with a frown, but Jaeger stiffened up a little as he mentioned it and his eyes locked with Tanya who also froze.
“Hol’ up. What do you mean you get sick?” Ham looked down and Max now gave his dad a confused look.
“I mean not often but…” Max processed things for a moment and pointed at Jaeger. “You made us sick didn’t you!”
“Getting flus and colds is part of the human experience! Feeling weak and recovering is important for personal growth!” Jaeger insisted immediately as even Raven gave him a slightly hurt look.
“You mean that awful summer cold I had two years ago where I was miserable for like a week and went through a million kleenex was because you! I just thought it was like… I don’t know!” She waved a hand.
“Yes. I made you two get sick. Just… minor programming things so you’d know what it was like. Your mother thought it was important! As did I. You’re human, no matter what these louts talk about being synths. So… human experiences are important! If you were a Jipasi synth I’m sure you’d experience similar… Jipasi things!” He looked around a moment at that. “Where’s Kuv?”
“I had him start organizing salvage and checking their lander wrecks for traps and the like. Useless little coward spent the battle running through the tunnels setting booby traps so I told him he has to put in work now.” Tanya snorted and shook her head slowly.
“He’s pretty adamant about not being in the actual fighting.” Jaeger nodded.
“Can we not change the subject about you forcing disease upon us?” Max tried to keep the conversation focused.
“It’s not disease! It was a few colds and a flu or two! If you don’t know what it’s like to be sick how will you know when people you interact with mention things like that? It’s about blending it. Vulnerability is essential to the human experience.” Jaeger insisted.
“He’s got a point. Seeming him at his lowest really helped keep us in line… And then also shame us when he was humping fifty kilos through the worst terrain possible, ahead of us, all without bitching.” Figs nodded slowly. “That and he could still gross us out in ways only a baseline could. What was the other thing you’d do? Something about food.”
Mentioning that made Jaeger’s stomach growl again as he looked around at the food set out. “I’m so hungry I could eat the asshole out of a dead water buffalo.”
“Uuggghhh!” This got a round of disgusted groans from Tanya, Figs, Tabori, and Ham while Brandy-Lynn cackled once more.
“What? That’s kind of crass… but… why are you all acting like it’s so bad?” Max asked with a confused look.
“Because he did it!” Ham waved at Jaeger even as he reached out to grab some of the chicken nuggets that Brandy-Lynn had left behind to delicately eat as he tried to determine what his stomach would allow for now.
“He what?” Max looked back at Jaeger who shrugged.
“We were on day four of a six hour mission.” He started and then grabbed a plate to snag a few other items.
“You mean-” Max started but Figs cut him off.
“He does not. Intel had a very bad habit of underestimating local resistance, and overestimating orbital support. What was supposed to be a quick drop turned into a slog across New Vientiane thanks to Brandy-Lynn’s distant retarded cousins blowing up an entire starport to try and kill us.” Figs explained.
“I’ve told you asshole New Vientiane was mostly Laotians and Cambodian settlers! Not Vietnamese!” Ham growled out while Brandy-Lynn just shrugged.
“Gooks’ a gook. Only difference is how much you lead em. All the cool kids moved to Louisiana. Or Newest Orleans. Plus you all know I give zero shits about my supposed heritage. Gimme nascar any day of the week and I’ll happily sit on my swamp porch drinking cheap beer and shooting gators with my shotgun.” She accented her point by taking another big bite of her Franken-burger and chased it down with some of her sugary fruit juice.
“God you’re such white trash.” Ham muttered as he looked at Brandy-Lynn who just blew him a kiss.
“Anyway-” Jaeger cut back in before the conversation devolved any further. “Having been used to this kind of thing before I always brought more food than usual but even I hadn’t planned for it to get this bad. There we are marching through the jungle and come out in a village that had been hit in an attack by either the LRFC, or the AAVLA, or possibly the LLCF recently. God they had so many insurgent groups… Anyway there was a dead water buffalo sitting in a rice paddy. Now… I’d used this expression before. I’d heard it from some old vet on Earth, who had heard it from some old vet, and so on and so forth probably all the way back to… I dunno… The origin of soldiers and water buffalo.”
“Tabori bet is Romans. They marched all over, and ates a lots of animals’ assholes.” Tabori at the end sagely nodded.
“Anyway…” Jaeger shrugged. “I realized that I had to eat. Not only was I starving but if I had been using that phrase and suddenly found an actual dead water buffalo and didn’t eat it… Well there’s a reason I’m the sarge.”
“So you ate a water buffalo? That’s not… so bad?” Max glanced around but the other Revenant at the table were shaking their heads. “No…”
“Yep.” Jaeger nodded. “Cut up the flanks and cooked em and I ate that asshole. It wasn’t great. But I cleaned and cooked it all properly. I mean they’re herbivores. It’s not that bad. Your mother tried very hard to get me not to do it. But even she knew I had to do it. Just one of those things… The flanks were good though honestly. I still love flank steak.”
“I don’t think I want to hear this.” Raven quietly muttered besides him as Jaeger lifted his arm to look down at her, having forgotten.
“Oh! Honey! Gaaaah I keep forgetting you’re here. I am so sorry…” Jaeger pulled her in close to his side. “Great… look what you guys have made me do!” He glared around the table.
“Yeah, she’s your kid you knew she didn’t have a chance.” Brandy-Lynn snorted.
“Then… then once I pick them up these… degenerates.” Ham waved around the table. “Showed me pictures! Leona even broke protocol to preserve a memory essence of that impromptu barbecue just so I could smell it! So gross. It looked so rubbery.” Ham stuck his tongue out and shuddered at the memory still stuck inside his head.
“Man’s gotta eat.” Jaeger shrugged once more.
“When that call came in that you guys were ready for pickup and had some barbecue for me to eat…” Ham shook his head. “Never gone from happy to grossed out so quick.”
That jogged something in Jaeger’s head. “Call… Do we have comms with Whispertail? There was going to be an attack on his cruiser. Do we know what happened?”
The others sat up a little as he reminded them there was work to be done. “No.” Tanya shook her head. “Resetting the base unsynced our tight beam dishes. Few of our satellites too.”
“You need to get those back up. Without the tight beams aligned if you die we can’t bounce back the signal before your soul gets sent to Edenshard.” Jaeger reminded her.
“What? We solved that at the end of the war.” Figs frowned.
“We did. But then we just reset. I forgot about that. I had… a lot on my mind…” He sighed heavily as he remembered having to kill Leona to save his kids. This had not been a good day… And yet he’d just been laughing. He knew he’d get past it but… He pulled Raven close to his side once more needing another hug as she wrapped her arms around his side.
“Oh my god.” Figs muttered. “Oh my God! Hooooooooooolllyyyy shiiiiit! I could have died!” The big man gasped.
“Yeah?” Jaeger frowned, wondering what was up with his friend.
“I could have DIED!” Figs gasped again.
“Yes. Just like all the other battles we’ve been in.” Jaeger shrugged a moment.
“No! But! Like! Died! Dead! Not coming back! Finito! Kaput! Gone forever!” Figs was slowly leaning back as if this was all hitting him for the first time.
“That’s… that’s always been a risk you know that.” Even as Jaeger said that Figs clasped his own face, with his mismatched hands.
“I mean for you maybe! And Brandy-Lynn! But I’m a synth! I was always going to be a synth! I was never really going to die! But today I could have like… I even! After I got hit I was like… shit this sucks! And they were trying to still kill me! I was thinking about doing something funny… but just stopped myself at the end because I figured you’d get pissy about it. But I would have like... for real seriously actually died! I’m too pretty to die!”
“Have you seriously never considered you’d actually die on one of our missions?” Tanya asked.
“No! Why would I?! I’m immortal and fantastic! That’s my thing!” Figs was patting his chest as he blinked and then shook his head rapidly. “Brandy-Lynn. Lets go get high. Right now.” He said as he stood up.
“Don’t need an excuse but sure.” She started to rise up.
“Sit back down, both of you.” Jaeger growled. “We need to talk about Marque and where his forces are coming from. The landers can’t have come from offworld. He has to have a base here on planet.” Jaeger patted at his pouches a moment and pulled out the flower he had found earlier. “I found this on one of them. Anyone have ideas?”
Even as he asked that Tabori was standing up and walking down to take the flower. “Tabori knows this flower. It is Leontopodium Solaris Nivale. Solavis Mountain Flower. It is most common in the mountains on the eastern side of this continent.” Jaeger pulled his helmet back on then and he brought up his map in the UI.
“Anywhere specific?” He asked.
“It only grows high in mountains. It is similar to legendary edelweiss from Europes of lore. Soldiers would climb mountains to grab rare flowers to demonstrate courage. And also mountain climbing skill presumably. Tabori of course has done this here. From Scissor mountain.” As he said that Jaeger focused the map on the area in question. It was a pretty empty area but then he saw a town nearby.
“Rochambeau… Why is that name familiar?” It clicked in his head then. “You sent Kuv that package from there didn’t you?”
“Tabori did indeed send package to comrade Kuv from this town. Very delightful little place. This was after Tabori had chased down possibly Draugr across paper plains.”
Jaeger looked at the map and noticed the Paper Plains… besides Rocky River… Underneath Scissor mountain. “Oh… you know what? I am… just… astounded by the names the colonists picked sometimes. Rock, paper, scissors, Rochambeau… got it… the game… wow…” But his eyes scanned over the map a bit further. “But… it’s not far from the Redwood Facility.”
“No way Marque is there. That facility was burned. Literally and figuratively. Everyone knows its there and that whole city is nothing but ashes and charred corpses even now. The recovery program would notice a bunch of Draugr.” Tanya reminded him.
“They were making another facility in the region before the war. They wanted increased hangar space.” Jaeger reminded them. “Scissor mountain…” The large split mountain was a clear icon on the map as if it had just been waiting for him to realize what sat beneath it. “How much we wanna bet that’s it? I’ll call Whispertail and let him know.”
“Just like that? You’re going to tell a member of the Obsidian Guard about a Revenant facility? One that contains the codes we need?” Ham asked.
“What codes?” The rest of the table looked down at Tami and after a moment she shrank back a bit as if wishing she could go invisible.
“There’s old Revenant codes we need to try and unlock some lost memories of my dead wife and other synths from the war.” Jaeger lied. “He has some, we have some. Obviously I want them.”
“Oh. They aren’t like… nuclear missile launch codes?” She checked.
[Continued in comments]
submitted by RegalLegalEagle to HFY [link] [comments]

The Featherlight Transmission, Ch. 20

To my supreme irritation, the entrance to the Library is currently outside the city, tucked up against the outside of the Wall at the bottom of some dug-out earthen stairs that weren’t there yesterday. Northeastern quadrant, somewhere. So I’ve got to go all the way to Eleven, out the Gate, and then aaaaaall the way up and around the perimeter of the entire fucking city until I find the hole it’s in. And I have to do it within the next couple of days, or the entrance is going to move and I’ll be further back than where I started. I can’t even begin to guess how many miles that is. Without a lift, it’ll be midnight by the time I get to the spot, and I do not love the prospect of trying to find one small hole in the Desert by light of grainy night vision. Not to mention my knees will probably just stage a revolt and suicide bomb themselves out of my body before I’m even a third of the way there.
Who do I know that owns a set of wheels? Em doesn’t. Ten doesn’t need one - her best friend is basically a diesel truck with fists and she just rides around on his shoulders.
And that’s all the friends I have. When I started that paragraph I thought it would be a longer list, for some reason.
Okay. Time to call in a favor.
The inside of my head rings a few times, then beeps once. There’s a familiar voice.
“Hey Lieutenant.”
“... Featherlight. Is someone dead? Or about to be?”
“Not this time. Are you on lunch yet?”
“In twenty minutes. Why?”
“I need a favor.”
“... What kind of favor.”
“A ride.”
“I’m not a goddamn taxi, take a train like everyone else.”
“I need a ride out of the city.”
“Okay. That’s great. It’s also out of the question.”
“You owe me.”
The line’s quiet for a second. I can hear him light a cigarette, then exhale once.
“What’s this about, Featherlight?”
“The case. Sort of.”
“Okay. It’s my case. So, be more specific or I’m hanging up.”
“Alright, it’s not directly related to the case. But it’ll help move everything forward. Along with every other case in the future, probably. Or lead to some fun new ones, what do I know.”
“... Spill it or I’m throwing this phone out my goddamn window.”
“That would be a really stupid thing to do to your own phone. You know I’m not physically inside your phone right now, right? It wouldn’t even hurt me. Well, apart from my feelings-”
“Five seconds.”
“I’m going to the Library.”
I can hear him take the receiver away from his head and look around the office, making sure no one’s around to eavesdrop.
“And I’m supposed to help you do this because… ?”
“Because you owe me. And because me becoming a better operative only benefits you in the end, boss.”
“Benefits me how, exactly? If anyone catches wind of this, I’m gonna be ashes before sundown. Do you have any idea how much of a Category Five shitstorm would break out if it was discovered that one of the Watch’s most decorated detectives was caught helping a mage get to the place where mages learn more magic? I can save the time by just hanging myself right here in my office, Featherlight. I can do it with this very fucking phone cable.”
“Now now, Lieutenant. Everyone knows the Library doesn’t exist. And who’s gonna find out? I’ve got scramblers, which you already helped into my hands. You’re just giving me a lift out of the city. No one’s the wiser.”
“You still haven’t explained how you becoming a more aberrant aberration helps me or anyone else in any way.”
“Have some goddamn imagination, Deepwell. What, you don’t trust me?”
Only sort of?
I sniff indignantly. “Well. I’ve never done anything but help you advance the cause of justice.”
“And your bank account.”
And the safety of innocent civilians everywhere. Look, Deepwell. I’m being watched. I’ve already been attacked on the streets once. People are after me, and some of them are even heavier hitters than I am. Now, I haven’t done a goddamn thing but help nudge your career ever forward, for years, at a penny rate that most other self-respecting human beings would interpret as a flat insult. I might not be a paragon of moral fucking purity or anything, but I’ve never put a single toe wrong and I’ve never not been on your side, since day one. You can either be a friend now and lend a guy a goddamn hand, or sit high and dry with every other reptile that’s tried to fuck me over for being what I am. Pick.”
Frankly, this is overdue, maybe by years. It’s time for Lieutenant Deepwell to either engage with me on a human level, or admit to both me and himself that he sees me as nothing other than a tool to be used for his own benefit and discarded at the first sign of flaw. Either way, I want to hear him say it. This is the breaking point. I brace for impact.
He doesn’t say anything for a good long while, but I can hear him smoking, calm as ever. But he finds his voice eventually.
“Alright, Featherlight. Mother and Father help me, but alright. I can only pray that I’m not helping make another goddamn monster. Just thinking about your after-arrest paperwork landslide is enough to give me indigestion.”
“I’m already a monster, babycakes. Fortunately for you, I’m one of the decent ones.”
“I guess we’ll see. Where are you?”
“Meet me at the Sector Sixteen entrance station.”
“Twenty minutes.”
“Got it. See you then.”
We hang up.
I’ve got a fucking police escort, baby.
Seventeen minutes later, Deepwell is rolling up in a reinforced paddy wagon, the kind of ironclad mobile prison you use to arrest whole armies of angry drunks at once. Not fashionable. However, I cannot physically fit inside a normal Watch street cruiser, so I’ll just have to accept the blow to my style points.
He gets out and opens the rear door for me, because it would look weird as shit if a mid-ranking Watchman pulled up and just let some freak clanker slab hop into the back of his wagon without prompting.
Inside, it’s not what I’d call a hotel room. High brackets mounted in two lines along the walls, for chaining lawbreakers’ wrists above their heads. Only the barest whisper of cushioning on the benches to prevent suspects from dividing their own bodies on hard metal edges. Whole rest of the interior is stark metal with some kind of transparent laminate, so the precinct can hose the cabin down without any fuss, in the event of detainees getting all splattery.
I hunch my head down and take a seat by the drivers’ cab window grate. Even though this thing was designed to contain 6-8 arrestees without too many broken bones, you’d have a hard time fitting more than two of me in here.
The Lieutenant fires up the engine, and we’re off down the road.
He looks in the rearview at me and says, “Since I’m kind and generous enough to risk my career by playing chauffeur for you, you wanna fill me in on what exactly’s been going on?”
I tell him the entire thing, more or less. There isn’t much reason to hold anything back anymore. If he’s going to be on my side, I might as well be honest with him. I even tell him about the missing cryomancer. He’s cheesed with me about it for a second, but loosens up after he hears about me getting one of my eyes knocked out.
“Seagraves. Fuck. That guy’s at or near the tippy-top of every wanted list in the city. His bounty is so huge that it’s started to collect interest on itself. It’s so ludicrously big that people can’t help but try to collect it, he keeps murdering them, so his bounty just gets bigger, on and on. I won’t lie - I’m kind of heartbroken that you didn’t call me after gluing him to the street. That arrest would have made me Captain all by itself. Hell, they’d probably skip Captain and just make me Major of the entire district.”
“He was professional with me and tipped me off on who hired him, so I threw him a bone.”
He snorts. “Don’t let any officers other than me hear you say that. Seagraves’s augmetics are greased with gallons and gallons of Watchman blood. Some guys have made it their life’s mission to take their vengeance out of Seagraves’s hide. I don’t think there’s anyone in the city the Watch hates more than Krint Seagraves.”
“Would you’ve been able to arrest him? The guy’s so strong that he probably funds his operations by punching people into diamonds. The only reason I got away from him was magic and about seven dump trucks full of luck.”
The Lieutenant doesn’t have an immediate response to this. “... Maybe not. No one else has been able to pull it off. But I would’ve fucking tried.” He lights a cigarette. “Anyway. Him being involved confirms at least one thing - the Brotherhood want you in a vat. Or in a bag. In something. So much for bribery.”
“Yeah. And if they keep pressing, they’re gonna get me eventually. The entire Brotherhood is more enemy than one guy can handle, even if I am a lot of guy. Hence the Library. If I’m going to make it out of this alive, I need to learn some new tricks.”
“I understand that. I don’t love it a whole lot, but… put it this way, you’re about the only arcanist in this city that can say ‘Hey Deepwell, I’m gonna go become a more powerful wizard, just like Kartullus!’ and not get immediately Watched all over.”
“... Didn’t Kartullus get more powerful by devouring the souls of nine-thousand nine-hundred and ninety-nine willing sacrifices?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that, Featherlight. I am a good citizen who does not pollute his mind with tales of atavist mumbo jumbo. But yes, he did. And then he turned a third of the world into a zombie-infested undead empire and ruled over it for four hundred years.”
“I don’t want to rule a third of the world. I mostly want to rule my apartment.”
“Some would say that’s how it starts.”
“Others would say that doing anything past that would take ambition, which I am notoriously bereft of.”
“People change.”
I look him flat in the eyes. “Look, Deepwell. If I come out of the Library scattering lunglocker spores and plague juice everywhere while cackling about becoming an invincible death mutant to drown the world in a tide of disease and monsters, I give you permission to shoot me right in the face.”
“... Would that even stop you at that point?”
“Probably not. But I also give you permission to just… I dunno, tell the Mayor or something. A single Wellwarden would probably be more than capable of cutting my nefarious ass in half regardless of how biomantic I get.”
“I don’t really want to get anywhere near a Wellwarden. If you go all Primordial on me I’ll probably just skip town and let the Brotherhood handle it. I’ve got family in Valtea. I’d be fine farming.”
“Not gonna lay down your life for the security of the city, big man? Badge too heavy?”
“I love my job and I love my town, but it pays to know when love needs to run out.”
You know what’s interesting? He’s lying. It’s in his vitae - you can see the wavering, the subtle bruised-shadow discoloration that comes from hidden shame. He wouldn’t cut town if there was a real, honest-to-gods megamonster on the streets. He’d wrestle it with his own two arms and die trying to cram his revolver down the beast’s throat. He’d go out like a goddamn supernova, just as blinding as his vitae is.
Most people lie to make themselves seem more valorous than they actually are. Deepwell is lying to make himself seem more cowardly. I wonder why.
We’re quiet for a little while. Deepwell and I aren’t friends. We’ve just worked together for a few years. Neither of us is really comfortable enough with the other to engage on a personal topic, but we’re too familiar to erect a panicked sonic barrier of small talk between us. We just let the city judder and limp past us. It’s not rush hour, but it’s Wellspring City, so driving is only marginally faster than going backwards, regardless of what time of day it is. The trains ride on rails high above the streets most of the time, so they’re always faster when you can catch one. The only reason I wanted a ride is for once we’re outside the Wall.
And honestly, I just really don’t want to exit the city’s protective clamshell by myself. I’ve mentioned my issues with agoraphobia. I’ve only had to go outside the Gate maybe two or three times in my life and I hated it on each occasion. Horizons are overrated. It’s just a fucking line with two colors on either side. People always getting so het up over them like they have intrinsic meaning.
Is this tough guy posturing making me seem more confident? God I don’t want to go out there.
But I have to.
The human condition is kind of funny that way. The very first thing any of us do is something we desperately, hatefully do not want. It’s not even a choice. We’d rather do literally anything else. We kick, and we scream, and it’s cold and terrifying and we just want to go back in.
Then we keep doing it over and over, every day, for the rest of our fucking lives. How fucked up is that?
I think the true mark of wisdom is when a guy finally figures out how to stop being born. It’s been 29 years and I still haven’t gotten there. Maybe someday. Until then, I’m clawing and bawling the whole way down the road.
“Why not just take another job?”
I raise an eyebrow. “Hm?”
“I know you know this isn’t the only bounty on the board. We’ve got plenty. Some of them even have names and pictures attached. Really easy. Kid’s stuff, frankly. I’ve already given you your consultant fees. Why not just… do something else? It seems like this job might be hotter than it’s worth.”
“Well… you know me, Deepwell. I love a good scrap.”
“... What? No you don’t. The last time I gave you a tip that led to you boxing a guy you complained for five straight hours about all the different places you’d rather be and things you’d rather be doing. All of them were ‘taking a nap in my apartment’. The gods put the brain of a total slacker into the body of a quadruple-threat fighting machine.”
“That is an exaggeration, officer.”
“Barely. Come up with a better deflection.”
“You want the short answer or the long answer?” “The real answer.”
“Okay. The real answer is that I’m tired of living just for me. I used to do more and now I don’t do anything. I’m slipping into nothing. Yeah, most of me wants to jump ship and pretend like none of this ever happened. Just ignore all of it. Ignore the inquest, ignore the conspiracy, ignore the threats on my life and the lives of my friends, just roll over and go back to sleep. It’d be easy, Deepwell.”
He knows what I mean. “Yeah. It would be.”
“I’m not about to turn upside down and go full anti-Rec insurrectionist or anything, but… this shit has to stop, whatever it is. I’m just one of the assholes that got cursed with the power to do something about it. There’s someone out there trying to stir shit up in a major way, and we’ll see if they want to keep going after a Featherlight floats to the top.”
Deepwell smiles a little. “You kind of remind me of me when I was your age.”
My brow comes crashing down like a landslide. “I’m sorry, what? How fucking old are you?”
“I’m 29, you imperious jackass.”
“People can change a lot in three years. Three years ago I kind of felt like you do now. I wasn’t sure about my place. Wasn’t sure about where I was headed and why, or if any of it was going to be worth spending my only life on it. Then something happened, and I crystallized. I knew where I was supposed to be.”
“Yeah? I wanna be a crystal. What happened?”
He fixes his eyes on mine through the rearview again. He’s still smiling, very slightly. But it isn’t a happy smile.
“I killed a man.”
His eyes go back on the road, like that’s nothing.
“... Oh.”
Neither of us says anything for a bit. Procedure says there has to be at least some amount of silence after someone says those four words in that order.
He continues, “No need to get all wilty on me or anything, I’ve had years to live with it. And this wasn’t the kind of guy you have a funeral for.”
The Lieutenant takes a long, contemplative drag from his smoke. “But it’s kind of funny, in a way. My career up until that point was in catching people, and I was pretty good at it. Killing isn’t in my job description. Not officially, at least. I didn’t want to kill anyone, that’s not what I signed up to do. But for years, I thought to myself that same tough guy crap you hear from younger Watchmen. ‘I’m not out to kill, but I will if I have to. Don’t push me the wrong way, scum. It’ll be just like taking out the trash.’ I sat there with an itchy trigger finger and convinced myself that if it ever came down to me, I’d fire and forget all about it.”
“... I take it that’s not what happened.”
“No. It wasn’t.” He sighs. “You remember the Slither Pit?”
It takes me a second, but then I do remember. “Yeah. Ugh, yeah, I do. Jith Landup’s rape joint. I was on other work at the time, but I remember seeing his bounty go up once you guys had started closing in on him. I nearly took it, but then it went down.”
“Did you ever hear what ended up happening to him?”
“No, I wasn’t really paying all that close attention.” “I happened to him.”
“... Ah. That’d be why I haven’t heard anything about him in a while.”
“We cornered him and he tried using one of his girls as a human shield. Gun to her head, told us to back off. Y’know, like a hero. We gave him all the opportunities the rulebook tells us to. Second and third chances. Procedure is clear after that, and a good Watchman doesn’t spit on the rules. “Landup was never the brightest. He didn’t bother trying to hide his head behind the girl’s. And it’s not like we were at opposite ends of a slaughterball stadium or anything, it was an unmissable shot. I don’t have camera eyes like some of us, but I can play back that moment in my head, even now. It’s kind of incredible what a digpop shell does to a man when you fire it directly into his corpus callosum. In one frame there’s a whole and complete human head, sneering and insisting that you’re not bold enough to take the shot. You pull the trigger, and in the next frame it’s just two gallons of red paint and a handful of teeth.”
He takes another long drag. There’s no agony in his face that I can see. None in his voice, either. Change the words out and he could be talking about cleaning toilets, or balancing his checkbook.
“I killed Landup so bad I could taste him from fifteen feet away.”
I suppress a shiver.
“Well… look, you’re not gonna catch me wringing my hands over the headless corpse of poor old Jith Landup, serial rapist and sex slaver. If there’s anybody that deserved to be turned into vat carrots, it’s him.”
He nods calmly. “I know. That’s what I thought when I pulled the trigger and that’s what I thought after. But I was surprised to find that there was still a difference. Something was different. No, Landup wasn’t worth anything to anyone. The opposite, actually - the man was so foul that if you buried him no grass would ever grow on the grave. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from having nightmares about it. And that’s when I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.”
“... You had to do something that gave you nightmares, so your reaction was to... keep doing it?”
He smirks joylessly. “What kind of Watchman would you rather have on the streets? The one that pulls the trigger because the rules have finally let him? Or the one that only does because the rules make him?”
“I’d rewrite the rulebook to make a new Watchman, honestly. But if you make me pick, sure, the second one.”
“I’m glad. Because there are more of the first than you’d think.”
That gets a chuckle out of me. “Uh… I think I’m experienced enough in fuckhead Watch harassment to realize that a hefty portion of you are bad eggs. I can’t walk three blocks in the Inner Circle without getting picked up for suspicious activity. My activity is walking to the candy store in Sector Two I like. That’s as innocent as activities get, pal. But my face is a crime against nature, and I guess the Watch are environmentally conscious.”
“There are some Watchmen for whom supremacy and bullying are more important than maintaining the peace and upholding justice. And those are the guys that rule the roost. Because they’re the ones that get along best with the Brotherhood. I’m not sure how it wound up this way.”
“I’ve got a few fucking ideas. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to be an expert on human nature. Frankly, I don’t know how you wear the same badge as some of these vermin. Should shack up with the Surgeons. Lose about a hundred pounds and you’d probably do pretty well with them.”
“There are only ever two approaches, Featherlight. Do you stay and try to fix the thing you love from the inside, or do you jump ship and find something else to believe in?”
“In my experience it’s best to not go diving after sunk costs.”
“And in mine it’s best to stand your ground. If I didn’t think I could change the Watch for the better, I wouldn’t have stuck with it for as long as I have. And you can tell your Surgeons that they’d do a lot more good if they put on a uniform and went through the right channels. Like civilized people. Instead of setting a bad example for impressionable young minds. Such as yours.”
“Fuck you, Lieutenant Beergut. I’m too big to impress. You’d need construction equipment or a team of automechs.”
“Not gonna go all vigilante on me, are ya? Start breaking into medical supply closets and beating up people in alleys to make your points?”
I snort. “I’ve been considering it for the last decade and a half. It can’t pay any worse than what I get now. And I bet I could do more justice with a shadow and two fists than you could with an armory and a whole precinct of goons.”
“We generally prefer to take our suspects alive and undamaged, Featherlight. Due process and whatnot. Ground vatmeat can’t stand trial.”
Trials. So easily you place shackles on the eager claws of Justice.” I throw a paw dismissively.
Deepwell just shakes his head.

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submitted by CadaverCommander to HFY [link] [comments]

OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…11

That being handled, I leave a wakeup call for 0430 as I want a shower and a couple shower-sunrisers before we leave. It takes me about 10 minutes to pack. I call home to let Es know what’s going on. She’s not in, so I leave a message. Same for my friends Rack and Ruin of the Agency. They’re thrilled so far with my reports.
The security forces here are absolutely going to freak if they reverse-review my phone records once we leave.
Covert? Schmovert. I’m too old for playing such games.
The next morning, after a sudsy shower and a couple of vodka-infused shower-beers; I’m in the lobby with all my kit, checked-out, and waiting on the tour leader. My passport was stamp-stamp-stampity-stamped here at the hotel, which I thought was weird, but after spending time in this here country, not all that unusual.
At 0545 on the dime, the tour bus pulls into the lot. Without a word, bellhops grab near all my kit and escort it out to the waiting bus.
After tipping each extravagantly, I fire up a huge cigar, and wander around outside, loitering by the bus. I see members of my team at the front desk, checking out. Everything’s been paid for already, they just have to sign documents that they’re not secreting hotel towels or televisions or errant nationals in their luggage.
It’s a weird country.
I see them loading box breakfasts for us as well as box lunches on the bus.
Hell, they’re actually doing ‘field trip’ correctly.
If the bus us fueled up, we can go for days at this rate. There are several coolers bearing the hotel’s brand and I sidle over to see what they’re carrying.
Case after case of iced-down beer and a couple of cases of various high-octane potables; and over there? A couple of boxes of mixers…ah, soda…pop…carbonated citrusy goodness.
“OK”, I sigh, “All is as it should be. Now the field excursion may begin.”
My teammates filter outside as does their luggage. I suggest they get out and keep what is necessary for preliminary outcrop excursions; such as a backpack or knapsack, hammer, acid bottles, field notebooks, Brunton compass, lighters, cameras, personal tobacco products, and the like in the bus. That way, we don’t have to go tearing through all the luggage at every stop.
I pull out a bundle of 100 Hubco™ large geological dual-sample bags. That’s right: ‘dual’ sample…
I distribute these to everyone on the team. I ask that they devise their own numbering system and make absolutely certain I have a copy of it when we’re done. I’ll be correlating and curating all the samples when we get back to the world.
I ask that a cooler of drinks are left on board the bus, rather than in the hold. It’s humid, sticky, and muggy today. We must expend valiant effort in remaining hydrated and this will help.
Luckily, the bus has on-board lavatory facilities.
We are seated on the bus, my 10 collective team members, myself, our 4 ‘guides’, ‘Yuk’, ‘No’, ‘Man’, and ‘Kong’; our driver, relief driver, one incredibly shy national geologist, Myung-Dae Soo, and four of the shiny suit clan.
The hotel wheels out a large cart laden with pastries and a huge coffee urn. A bit of a “Bon Voyage” from the casino and bar crowd, as they put this together for us when they heard we were leaving.
“Hey. That’s really nice of them.” Dax notes.
Dax handed over our raw “elevator waiting” funds as we didn’t have time to run it through the casino-machine before we left. We donated over 75,000 won to our friends at the bar, casino, and massage parlor. The ones delivering our going away present assured us it would be divided equitably.
“It best be”, I laughed, “You never know when one of us might be back!”
There was a collective horrified look on their faces for the merest moments. Then they all laughed and said that they hoped we would return someday soon.
“Nice folks”, I thought, “Stupid as shit country, but nice folks.”
We had all separately left tips for the room maids, bellmen, and matrons back before we checked-out.
There was a flurry of handshaking and goodbyes. Not a bad hotel experience here in the so-called land of Best Korea.
Serious dark coffee was passed out amongst the riders, but Ivan, myself, and Dax were already giving one of my emergency flasks a workout.
Ivan smiled and said: “We drink our coffee the Russian way. That is to say we had vodka before it and vodka afterward. HA!”
Ivan and I are cut from the same bolt.
Faux-doughnuts, pseudo-bear claws and fake-long johns all distributed; the bus is fired up, and rumbling. We are exhorted to watch our drinks as we pull away from the hotel and into the wilds of Northern Korea.
I’m humming away:

On the road again -Just can't wait to get on the road again,
The life I love is bashing rocks in the field with my friends.
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again.
Goin' places that we've never been,
Seein' things that we may never see again…
“Rock?”, Dax inquires.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Do please shut up.”
“Music hater”, I muse and comply.
We’re rolling down the highway, as it were, headed generally north. We all have cameras of one kind or another; and rather than relieve us of them, they quietly and without much fuss, slowly darken the windows.
They claim it’s to keep the sun out and temperatures down, but just before things go all black, we’re seeing sights and scenes of the true North Korea. They’re trying to keep us from seeing that en route to the outcrops.
This new bus has some sort of electronic tint-control gizmo for the windows. However, if one has a pair of polarizing sunglasses, as all good field geologists do, you see right past that and can view the passing scenery unencumbered.
I return from a quick beer-recycling loo trip and am amused to see 10 Western scientists, sitting in a blacked-out bus, all wearing polarizing sunglasses.
It was just the surreal note this trip needed as we left the confines of the capital city.
We traveled north, and the empties pile began to grow. We had a few trash bags we had liberated from the hotel, but the shiny suits were very insistent that every empty can, bottle, and bag, yes they had beer in bags…had to be repatriated to a box in the far back of the bus.
Evidently, they either were paid a bounty on each container or were accountable for each vessel. They were soon to realize just the capacity for drink that a group of 11 seasoned very Senior Field Geologists, and one stowaway geologist-in-training can amass.
As we ply our way northward, we see the agricultural side of North Korea. The contrast between rural areas and the capital was striking. There were miles of rice paddies being harvested by people with sickles in their hands. And no cars on the highway. It was most destabilizing for this Westerner.
I think we saw a maximum of three tractors, as most of the work was done with ox power, there was very little evidence of rural electrification. Oh, hold on. We saw many more tractors, I should correct that: we saw three running and not rusted into oblivion tractors.
The farmers we see are using equipment that is quite literally medieval - single-share plows pulled by large, cranky bovines; sweeping sickles to bring in the harvest, and twin-engine, bilateral, botanical-fired ox-carts to transport it. It’s hard to believe that this third-world level of poverty exists in the same country that’s capable of building rockets, nuclear weapons, and tall, well-appointed hotels.
But when we stop at a motorway service station for fuel - a bizarre alien spaceship-like building squatting over the empty carriageways - we do encounter a jangmadang, or semi-official market. Here they are selling cans of knock-off Vietnamese Red Bull and Malaysian-made King Cobra™ Cola.
It reminds me of Russia right after the wall fell. Off the Trans-Siberian Railway in Krasnoyarsk, the Gateway to Eastern Siberia. You can buy Chinese hams, Chinese sodas, Chinese knock-off liquor, and those bloody delicious little bullets of Vitamin-C, Chinese mandarins.
Here, it’s similar. You can get most anything you desire, except it isn’t of Korean manufacture. That stuff is even too shitty to pawn off on tourists.
Instead, it’s knock-off Malaysian, Chinese, or Indonesian beer, wine, or soft drinks.
“Tiger-brand energy drink. Now with 40% more real tiger.” Here? I believe them.
Vodka from everywhere not known for its vodka distilling prowess. Rural hotel shops sell nastily stale crisps, gummy gummies, filling-ripping ‘chewy’ taffy or caramel, and biscuits with a severely limited choice. Rural hotels do not have full electricity so beer is warm and often tossed on the table, waiting for tourists to arrive - as is the food. We were warned to be prepared for cold rice, cold fish, cold potato – and plenty of kimchi and tofu.
Back on the road again, we’re passing small burgs that are not on any of our maps; even the ones we traded for back in the hotel that are specially marked: “For Internal Use ONLY!”.
They were amazingly the same. Clean. Bright. Uncluttered. And attended by cadres of prim, uniform-clad, though non-military people. They were all doing a day’s work keeping everything neat and clean.
There were no cars, trucks, forklifts…only rickshaws and ox-carts. However every one of these ‘towns’ were identical, and exactly, as Ivan pointed out, ‘X’ number of minutes apart.
“Watch! Is so!”, Ivan said. We passed one of these villages, and exactly 3 minutes later, an exact copy. Three minutes later? Another one. 3 more minutes? Xerox-city.
“What the fuck?” Dax asked.
“Potemkin village.” Comrade Dr. Academician Ivan replied.
A Potemkin village is any construction, literal or figurative, whose sole purpose is to provide an external façade to a country which is faring poorly. It is for making people believe that the country is faring better, although statistics and data would suggest otherwise.
“Russia pioneered the process,” Ivan noted with no small amount of pride. “During Cold War with West, entire cities were built, moved, raised, and razed. Ever hear of Krasnoyarsk-25? Atomic Research City? Supposed place of weapons study and manufacture. Huge ‘accident’. Entire city demolished, total populace relocated supposedly, after massive nuclear calamity.”
“Is that true? Cliff asks.
“No. Not at all.” Ivan smiles, “Deliberate misinformation. At least for K-25. It was diversion for actual towns where accidents; nuclear, biological, or worse, had happened. West so concerned about K-25 because it was big, near big capital city of Krasnoyarsk and suitably located out in the taiga. Easy to spot, easy to watch. Kept Western satellites busy while real towns of I-33, U-10, and AR-13 out in the forest were quietly demolished and people relocated or mass buried after some horrible, horrible accidents...”
“You think it’s the same here?” I asked Ivan.
“No, Dr. Rock”, Ivan smiled, and helped himself to my freshly constructed, but untouched, Yorshch, “This is all fake and bluster. Make West think everything is all A-OK, is that right idiom?”
“Yep.” I reply, “Precisely.”
“Make West believe all is OK and green”, as he winks at me, “And bustling and growing. Cover up what is real case here. We all see it and we see right through. Shoddy even for Asians.”
We all had to snicker and smirk as the shiny suit squad, who sat up at the front of the bus, and were not supposed to be listening; reacted like every cell in their bodies were just hit with a drop of pure lemon juice.
“Comrade Dr. Academician. Decorum, please.” I snickered.
“Oh, fuck them!”, Ivan replied, “I am old Russian. They try and pull burlap over my eyes? St. Petersburg? Moscow? Krasnoyarsk.? I’ve been there, seen them. They think this display of tawdriness…Even goofy American and Canadian can see the fakes they are. Britisher? I’m not so sure…”
“Damn, Doctor., I said to Ivan, “You’re just making friends all over the planet today.”
We all knew it was in jest; but the shiny suit squad certainly had their feathers ruffled and either didn’t care or wanted us to know we were under their observation.
“Fuck them twice”, Ivan said, “Ask them for bottle opener. I’m too lazy to search for my field jackknife.”
I hand him my pocket Leatherman and he pries the top of another bottle of ‘Budveiser’ beer.
“They can’t even make fake the name correctly”, he smirks and drains the bottle.
‘Town’ after ‘town’ and even that parade gets uninteresting. We’re headed north and finally come to a crossroads.
The bus driver, who must be a regular paranoid-maniac because he actually stopped to look for oncoming traffic, which we have seen precisely none since leaving the capital city, made a hard right. We’re heading back and up into the hills, leaving the bright lights of the big city far behind.
After an hour or so of driving, we pull off to the left-hand side of the road.
“Rock, Ivan, Cliff…holy shit, look at this!” Dax was uncharacteristically excited.
It was an open field that leads to a series of low outcrops of polychromatic, obviously sedimentary rocks. Magentas, greens, purples, rust-reds, browns, blacks, olive greens…holy shit. A real sedimentary pile.
We filed out of the bus with our field gear. The shiny suit squad started in with a bullhorn.
“You will wait for tour guides!”
“You will listen to group leaders!”
“You will not stray from the designated paths set up…”
No one heard them as the group of 11 remaining Western geoscientists were already across the highway and hieing for the exposures like outcrop-seeking multiple-warhead re-entry vehicles.
“You must wait!” we heard from exasperated voices back at the bus. “You must stop!”
“You must piss off!” Cliff said, “This is what we’ve been waiting over two weeks to see!”
“They are very angry with us”, Myung-dae the young Korean geologist said. “I find that just too bad.”
“And you are?” I asked.
Myung-dae Soo, the young Korean geologist, introduced himself.
“Well”, I said, “Welcome aboard. I’m Dr. Rock.”
“They are very, very angry”, he repeats.
“So? Are you tagging along to give them internal reports?” I asked.
“No, Doctor”, he replied, “I too am a geologist. I want to get away from those assholes and see some real rocks.”
“Who are you with?” I ask, “What group?”
“I am 5th-year student at Pyongyang College. I am not officially here. We were told in class that you were coming. I decided to see if I could join you. This morning, I was standing by bus and they thought I was hotel worker or orderly. I was given cooler full of beer and told to find place for it on the bus. I did and after that, just stayed in the back. I am stowaway. I am ashamed, but I had to see for myself. But, I like Western field trips so far!”
“No shit? Well, then”, I said, “Double welcome aboard. None of this ‘I am ashamed’ shit. You’re a geologist, but you haven’t even worked through your first field-evening get-together with us. But this is no pleasure cruise. It’s real work, real geology, real serious science shit. You savvy?”
“Yes, sir, Doctor Rocknocker from Sultanate in the Middle East.” Myung-dae smiled.
“And you fucking stay close to me”, I smirked.
I fired a couple of BLAAATS! from my portable air horn.
“Field Meeting! Field Meeting! Assholes & Elbows!” I called aloud.
Everyone gathered within earshot.
“OK, guys, here’s the deal. We do not know how long we’ve got here. So, let’s split up into teams. Geophysicists, go do your structural thing. Stratigraphers? Field relations. Geologists? Let’s go talk to some ronery-rooking-rocks. No offense, Mr. Myung.”
Myung-dae was laughing up a storm. He got that reference. He later told us all around the campfire he thought ‘Team America’ was a “fucking hilarious movie.”
Oh, we are going to be a real bad influence on this poor kid.
The groups spontaneously broke up into 4 or 5 sub-groups. They headed for areas they thought were important and they were photographing, measuring, pounding on rocks, and arguing within minutes.
“No, you idiot! It’s continental. Look at those adhesion ripples.”
“The fuck you know. It’s only a little low-level eggbeater tectonics. Where the fuck would you get continental collision-size energy around here?”
“Oh, the fuck you say. It’s non-marine. Those are mud cracks. Look at the sandy aeolian infill, fer chrissake.”
Formal? Proper? Detached Doctors of Geology?
Not when you’re in the field. It all goes out the window when different opinions collide like subducting plates.
“The music of my people!” I said to Morse.
“I thought that was the ‘Safety Dance’?” he chided.
“We’re a big family. We can have more than one.” I snickered.
We’re wandering around the site, with individual purpose.
We are looking for or looking at items of interest.
We’re hacking at the outcrops.
We’re all looking at…things.
It’s hard to describe. Get a load of geologists or geology students out of the office, lab, or classroom; stick them out on a bare expanse of heavily weathered rock and it’s simply…numinous.
We’re rebuilding worlds here.
This rock says this.
This rock says that.
And you’re not fluent in that dialect. Here, let me interpret for you…
We’re at each other’s throats, in the academic-metaphorical sense. Tempers have been known to run hot. There has been the occasional bloody nose or rocks sailing down an outcrop without the obligate “HEADACHE!” call. Hammers and Marsh Picks have ended up swimming without the owner’s knowledge.
But once we’re back; settled in the hotel room, tavern, or around the campfire, we’re all a Band of Brothers again. It’s an odd thing to watch; as if you’re not of the clan, you’d need an interpreter. It defies all boundaries: political, sexual, educational, geographical, linguistic, social, et cetera.
We’re all geologists first. We share the common scientific bond of Geology.
That’s why Geology is the First Science.
Plus we tend to drink a serious fucking whole bloody awful lot.
We’ve all been on that ‘crawlin’ home puker’.
We’ve also been to the ends of the earth: the deepest depths, the highest heights, we deal with the greatest pressures, the hottest temperatures; we’ve been to the mountain, we’ve seen the elephant, and we’ve held a bear’s nose to dogshit.
We wear the scars attained in our travels like badges of honor.
We’re God-Damned Scientists.
Back off, man. Geologist comin’ through.
Anyways, I’m looking at the bedding-plane boundaries between the purple unit and the underlying olive-green unit. The upper unit it looks, to me, continental in origin. Fluvial, perhaps. The lower unit is much finer-grained. Marine mudstone, perhaps? But what age?
The cadged Korean Geological maps are worse than useless. They never would go down to the outcrop scale. Consulting them, they don’t even note these exposures in a field sense.
Myung-dae, who is working about 35 meters down-section from me calls out, “Doctors! Sirs! Look here! I’ve found something!”
We all wander over as he is hacking away at the dusty, eroded rock. He stands and dusts off his find.
It’s a very large, nearly 1-meter diameter, coiled fossil cephalopod.
I wander over for a closer look. Dax, Cliff, Morse, and Ivan do as well.
“Blimey! Will you look at that? Outstanding, Mr. Myung!” Cliff says.
“Well, that confirms it. This layer, at least, is marine. Look at that suture pattern”, I say, dusting off an unweathered bit.
“Look at the radius of coiling.”, Cliff joins in.
We’re slowly wresting information out of this silent witness.
“Ornamentation?”, Dr. Ivan asks. “Knobs, bosses, and excrutions?” Oh, yes.”
In unison, we declare: “Hyphoplites!”
Morse adds, “And therefore…these rocks are middle Cretaceous. Marine. Not bad…”
“Need to get some samples for geochemical analysis. Dig deep, gentlemen, we need unweathered samples for TOC (Total Organic Carbon) content.”, Dr. Erlen Meyer notes.
With that, we have a relative age of the rock, a good idea of its depositional environment, and therefore extent, ideas of field relationships, and an indication of some of its fauna.
Could it be source rock worthy?
Samples? Best get diggin’, Beaumont.
That unit is right smack in the middle of this pile of rocks. Dax and I will work up-section and Ivan and Cliff will work down-section. We’re going to see what lies above, what lies below, what trends we can discern, and develop an idea of what happened here some 100 million years ago.
This is what happens when you get geologists out in the field with the proper amounts of field gear, outcrops, and alcohol.
Overall, the deeper down-section, and therefore, earlier in geological time you go, the more marine the rocks are. Conversely, the higher you go in the column, i.e., up-section, into younger rocks, the more continental it appears.
We find fragments of marine fish fossils, sea-crocodile scutes and teeth, heaps of mosasaur coprolites, i.e., fossil shit piles, and other indications that the lower, older rocks are Lower Cretaceous ocean basin-fill.
But up higher; we find mud cracks, rain prints, land turtle shells, land-snails (Bellerophontid gastropods), and what may actually be a fossil feather. All indications of a more continental, i.e., fluvial (river), floodplain, lacustrine (lake), and paludal (swamp) deposition.
That’s my particular bailiwick.
I’m ‘elephant walking’ along the upper outcrops looking for fossils. You basically bend over at the waist and sweep from left to right as you take exaggerated step after step, scanning the ground looking for…well…it takes years, but once you see it, you never forget it.
“Fossil sign”.
A disjunct endemism. Something not in situ. Something out of place. A bit of a different, out of context color. Out of context texture. Out of context size. Out of context context.
Something that looks like it shouldn’t ought to be there.
I’m picking up 1 cm. square hunks of what look like an ordinary rock. I taste them. Well, I stick them to my tongue. If it liquefies and runs away, it’s ordinary mudstone, shale, or the like.
If it sticks…well, it might just be fossil bone.
“Damn right, Rock”, Cliff says from behind me, “Fucking North Korea tastes terrible.”
“Still, it’s the best way I know to…” I paused.
“Got something?” Cliff asked.
“Look here.” I said, “Anthill. Big, nasty buggers. Look around the edges. Pieces of flat, cream-colored rock on this gaudy purple stuff. Tongue test? They stick like cockleburs. Let’s look upslope, see if there’s a drainage…”
There it was, a nice little drainage incised about 1.5 meters deep into the nearly horizontal rocks we were walking on.
“Any float?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Cliff said.
We followed the weak, little drainage that was cut into the outcrop, up another couple of meters.
There were very scrappy, very small, very scattered pieces of that same cream-colored rock. Some were ornamented with a scroll-work or some sort of striations. Most un-geological. More biological. We followed the trail, up here, around here, over there.
Cliff noticed it first, a soccer-ball sized lump of completely out-of-place crème-colored ‘rock’ working its way out by gradual erosion of the variegated pastels of the continental rocks upon which we were treading.
I got there first and began to clear the area with my Estwing.
“Careful. Careful”, Cliff admonished.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mind your Mincies. [Mince pies = eyes]”, as I’m swinging away at the reluctant, reticent, rocks.
The excavation grew, slowly. From the rounded dome, we could see small sutures that had developed…
Then condyles, fenestrae, then more ‘bone’. Then a jaw, teeth, vertebrae…
“HOLY DOUBLE-DAMN SHIT!” I tootled my air horn. We needed the group to see this.
It was a skull. A dinosaur skull. A small, non-avian dinosaur skull.
Everyone has crowded around and looked at the small quarry we had just built.
“Whatcha got, Rock? Cliff?” Joon asked.
“Fuck me, but I think we’ve got us a dinosaur skull,” I said.
Professor Doctor Academician Ivan walked over and cleared the area.
As Professor Emeritus, he had pole position priority.
“I agree.” is all he said.
I cleared the area and let others take a whack at opening up the quarry.
We may have been low on power tools, but we had a surfeit of opinions.
“OK,” I said, “Let’s look at the facts…”
  1. Age? Cretaceous. Probably lower to lower-middle Cretaceous.
  2. Continental deposits. That’s very fine sand we’re hacking away. Fluvial, without a doubt. Or, possibly aeolian; there’s no such thing as a geological certainty. Dunes? Ephemeral creeks? Low floodplain? Geo-talk… .
  3. Small size. Potentially a juvenile?
  4. Nope. Not a juvie. Sutures are closed, fused. This is, well was, an adult; perhaps a subadult, given its size.
  5. In situ? In place? Or washed in?
Hard to tell when all you’ve exposed is half the critter’s brain box.
“Look at that!” Myung-dae exclaimed, “Squamosal bones and the inner parietals…temporal fenestrae. It had a frill; a small one.”
“OK,”, I said, looking closely at the exposed scrappy remains, “Fucking-A Bubba. Nailed it.” I said, giving him the thumbs up.
“Ceratopsian. Look at those greens-grinder molars. There’s some small osteoderms on the skull; knobby old bastard. Early critter.” I continued.
Others looked around and confirmed my observations.
“Reminds me of Protoceratops from when I was back in Mongolia,” I said.
Dax chimed in with, “Looks something like Psittacosaurus from back in the Cretaceous Belly River of Canada.”
Drs. Ivan and Morse agree. “Most assuredly. It is definitely proto-ceratopsian. Young adult, as Dr. Rock notes by the cranial sutures. Do they have a record of proto-ceratopsians here?”
Myung-dae replies, “I have read reports of Korean proto-ceratopsian found in South Korea. Not long ago, 2019, it is called…ah… Auroraceratops. It is a genus of bipedal basal neo-ceratopsian dinosaur.”
“Bipedal?” I query. “Well, there’s a fine how do you do. All the proto-ceratopsians I’ve known were obligate quadrupeds.”
“Well”, Ivan, Dax, Cliff, and Morse agree, “That should give the shiny suit squad something to report. That’ll keep them the hell out of our hair for a while.”
We photograph each step as we excavate the critter. It’s more or less in situ, buried where it fell. Probably killed by a sand slip off a dune, or a river sandbar slip and burial. It’s not complete, but we do have the skull and a good portion of the post-cranial elements to about just before the pelvis. A good pectoral girdle, skull, jaw, frill, forelimbs, forefeet…easily half-a cute little herbivorous dinosaur. About the size of a smallish Highland Coo or large Great Dane.
We flag it with the team particulars, it’s GPS position, and carefully rebury the animal. We don’t have any of the equipment nor time to excavate it properly, but we can conserve it. Of course, we’ll be informing the proper authorities of our discovery.
I have an absolutely ancient Polaroid instant camera. Before re-internment, I take several pictures of our “Koreasaurus”, as we’ve dubbed the animal, with items for scale; like a hammer, cigar, and oddly enough, a photographic scale. Then I get a photo of the whole crew standing around, drinking warm beers from their individual day packs, smiling about the find ‘they‘ made.
We hear the melodious tootle of the bus’s horns. We make sure to pack out all our trash and wander back to our terrestrial transport.
“You were gone too long!” the chief shiny suited character goes all ballistic on me.
“Watch yourself, Herr Mac.”, I calmly said, “You’re going to burn your nose on my cigar.”
“You left without your handlers…err…guides!” he fumed.
“Hey, Scooter. Cool out. We’re geologists. We never get lost.” I said.
It sometimes just takes us longer to get back than it took us to leave…
“Your impertinence will be reported.” He smoldered.
“Report this, Mother Chuckler”, I observed and held out the pictures of our newly discovered Koreasaurus.
“Show those photos to your handlers,” I said in a mocking tone. “We found a brand new species of God-damned dinosaur for you geezers. It took us less than two hours. You can spin it that it’s a new, never-before-seen species of very specialized dinosaur found right here in beautiful Korea del Norte. Be quite the scientific coup, don’t you think? Trust us. We won’t say anything.”
He immediately shut up and went into conference with the rest of the shiny suit squad.
“Doctor”, one of the clan covert asked, “This is a new dinosaur?”
I had a thunderbolt of an idea.
“Oh! Yes, it is. I’d stake my reputation on it. You’ve had no concerted search here for the beasts and well, with the normalizing of relations between your country and the world, it allowed your specialists to perform real science. In fact, on the bus is the young North Korean geoscientist who made the discovery.” I said. “Give me a minute. I’ll go and get him. I think he was off taking a shi…ah, using the lavatory. Just give me a minute.”
I did have an idea. A wonderful idea. A wonderfully evil idea.
Back on the bus, I ordered the doors closed.
“Gentlemen! Ears and eyes! Please.” I said loudly.
“The shiny suits have their knickers all a-twist because we don’t want to listen to them; the assholes. Fuck that. I’ve got an idea. Let’s make our young acolyte here, Mr. Myung-dae Soo, a national hero. He would probably get his ass in a crack for sneaking on board the Western bus today the way he did. Well, double fuck that. Let’s all say he found the dinosaur. Let him take the glory for the homeland. No one else will ever need to know.” I said smiling.
“Fuck Yeah! You bet! Замечательное! Ihmeellisiä! Maravilhoso! Geweldig!”
Good to know we’re all on the same page. Geologists. You can always count on them…
“Mr. Myung-dae Soo? Front and center. Time to go and become ‘Hero of Best Korea’.” I smiled.
He was absolutely terrified.
“Doctor…I …don't…wait…no…” he stammered.
Cliff, Dax, Ivan, and I trotted him out to confront the shiny suit squad.
“Don’t worry, Myung. We’ve got your back. Trust us.” I said in a low conspiratorial tone.
The shiny suit squad turned as one and gave Mr. Myung the Stink Eye treatment.
“Here you go. The man of the hour. Mr. Myung-Dae Soo, young geologist and up and coming paleontologist.” I say loudly and with the utmost honor.
They look at him and the Korean erupts in rapid-fire staccato bursts.
Cliff just wanders in and interjects, “Yes. Righto. Top form. Found the float. Tracked down that dino like he was on safari. Highest marks. Good man!”
Dax adds more fuel to the fire. “Like he knew where to go, knew where to look. He’s a natural.”
Dr. Academician Ivan blustered forth: “Excellent scholar. Excellent field man. Banner geologist.”
I couldn’t have added more. The shiny suit squad was gobsmacked.
I asked Myung-dae what they were saying.
“They were talking about reprisals. Reporting to authorities. Then, they stopped. You have them completely confounded.” He said.
“How so?” I asked, quietly.
“Between an international incident where we don’t listen to our handlers and this potential important scientific discovery.” Mr. Myung-dae reported, trying hard to parse the evolving situation.
“Yes”, I added to Ivan’s bluster.
To the shiny suits: “I’ve worked as visiting Dinosaurian Vertebrate Paleontology Curator at all the major American museums. This is a find quite unlike anything known. It is a watershed discovery. It will help unravel the evolution and distribution of the clan Dinosauria for the whole Korean Peninsula. Perhaps, even with international impact on the recent finds in China.”
I laid it on with a trowel.
I hit all the buzzwords.
“Yes. Yes, perhaps.”, the head shiny-suiter said. “I will report this bit of very good news to the proper authorities. Myung-dae, with us. We require more information.”
“Ah, we’d prefer him to ride in back with us if you don’t mind. Scientific courtesy, old man. He needs to be classically de-interviewed after such a find.” I insisted, making certain I stand as tall, wide, and menacing as possible while smiling like a damned Cheshire cat, one smoking a very large cigar.
“Very well. We are not far from our evening stop. We can talk later.” He agreed.
We all moseyed, laughing silently, back to the bus; literally supporting our young hero Mr. Myung-dae as he seemed to have gone all wobbly of late.
Myung-dae was ashen-white. He looked like he had just given birth to a basketball. He was visibly shaking.
We get on the bus and I whip up a stout Yorshch for the young hero of the hour.
“Here! This is for you. If you’re going to be a world-class geologist, you’d damn sure better start acting like one.” I smile broadly.
There were hoots, cheers, and cat-calls.
Beers were popped, bottles uncorked; cigars, cigarettes, and pipes lit.
“Damn Skippy!” some anonymous reveler added.
Myung-dae slurped a good half the drink. I offered him a cigar. He stopped shaking enough to accept the novel offer.
Remember “crawlin’ home puker”? He’s taken his first step into a larger world.
OK, just to recap. Here are the dramatis personae left on the bus…
Bus driver (Kim) and his relief (Won).
My team and I. That’s 11 Western geoscientists: Morse, Cliff, Volna, Ack, Viv, Graco, Erlen, Dr. Academician Ivan, Joon, Dax, and myself.
Then there are our guides: Yuk, No, Man, and Kong.
Our stowaway hero geologist-in-training: Myung-dae Soo, aka, “Mung”.
And the four members of the shiny suit clan: Pak, Mak, Tak, and Jak. At least, that’s the names we used when we addressed them.
The bus was rumbling down the deserted highway. We were headed more or less due east, passing the occasional Potemkin Village. They knew we cracked their code long ago, so they didn’t bother with darkening the windows any longer.
We are passing a series of highway road cut outcrops. We’re only going approximately 35 or 40 miles per hour. Suddenly, Morse jumps out of his seat and runs up to the driver.
“STOP! STOP! Back up! We almost missed it!” he barks in heavily Russian inflected English.
The driver, shaken to the core, just slams on the brakes. The bus grinds to a stop. Good thing there’s no traffic out here.
Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Jak of the suit clan jumps up and asks “What is the problem?”
“How could you miss that?” Morse shouts. “Huge fault. Mineralization. I saw that from a glimpse. We must return to investigate.”
“Is not possible. We have appointment at the hotel.” Jak replies.
“Fuck that!”, Morse shouts. I guess he’s just really into faults…
I wander up and try to defuse the situation.
“OK, guys, cool out. Let’s be reasonable. Do it our way. Go back to that road cut. We spend a half-hour there then we go on to the hotel. The hotel will still be there when we arrive, won’t it? Even if we’re a bit late?” I ask.
Jak looks to Pak, who converses with Mak and Tak. They know they’re outgunned.
The driver shifts the bus into reverse and we back down the luckily deserted highway over a mile to the outcrop in question.
We had to admit, it was a mother beautiful normal fault. In perfect, textbook cross-section.
Morse and Joon were on it like white on rice; given the mineralization along the fault plane. All sorts of implications for the thermal and geological history of the area. But with just one exposure like this, more or less just a real interesting geo-oddity.
We spent precisely 30 minutes at the exposure, and when our handlers requested we re-board and head to the motel, we complied like nice, normal sort of folks.
I believe the appropriate maxim here is: “Lull them into a false sense of security…”
Once more down the road we travel. Beers popped, bottles uncorked; you know, the usual.
Forty-five minutes later, we pull into, I kid you not, a replica US of A 1950s Motor-Inn.
“Mr. Myung”, I ask, “What the hell is this?”
To be continued…
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[FULL EPISODE] Green Man 3: Rise of the Golden God

9:00 PM
On a Friday
Philadelphia, PA

EXT/NIGHT: Downtown Philadelphia
A montage of the dark and murky streets of Philadelphia.
NARRATOR: Philadelphia, after dark. Not where you want to be. The kind of place where mistaking a quiet alley for a safe one might be the last mistake you ever make…
DR. WAITRESS walks into an alley, alone. Her footsteps echo. A figure steps out of the shadows.
CRIMINAL 1: Hey, honey… What’s the rush?
DR. WAITRESS turns around and starts to run. Another man steps out of the shadows and into her path. She screams.
CRIMINAL 1: Me and Bruno here was thinkin’ we all might have a little fun, see?
BRUNO: Heh, heh, heh. Fun.
A voice from the background. It’s a deep, gravely superhero voice - sort of like an impression lampooning at Christian Bale’s voice in The Dark Knight…
GREEN MAN: Is it the type of fun the whole family can enjoy?
In a flash, Green Man dashes to Criminal 1 and hits him with a powerful uppercut. He goes down like a sack of bricks. BRUNO grabs DR. WAITRESS and starts to back away.
GREEN MAN: Now, Troll Boy!
Frank – disguised as his alter-ego and GREEN MAN’s trusty sidekick TROLL BOY – appears behind BRUNO, crouching down behind him as he backs up. BRUNO topples over TROLL BOY and WAITRESS runs free. TROLL BOY pulls out a pistol and executes BRUNO.
GREEN MAN: Troll Boy! What the f*ck was that!?
TROLL BOY: What? He’s a bad guy! He was going to kidnap her!
GREEN MAN: Yeah, I know – but… Jesus! I mean… We’re heroes – you just executed the guy!
TROLL BOY: Look, you be a hero your way – I’ll be a hero my way.
CRIMINAL 1 comes to. He looks over at BRUNO and when he realizes what he’s seeing, races over to BRUNO’s corpse, becoming hysterical.
CRIMINAL 1: Bruno? Bruno!? Come on, brother, speak to me. Oh no, no, no. (to TROLL BOY) WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Oh, God, oh dear Jesus take me instead!
GREEN MAN, TROLL BOY and DR. WAITRESS all look around at each other uncomfortably.
CRIMINAL 1: BRUNO! WHY? You were going to Dartmouth in the fall! Oh, Bruno… BRUNO!
GREEN MAN: OK, let’s get the hell out of here.
GREEN MAN, TROLL BOY and DR. WAITRESS run out of the alley and around the corner. They stop, and GREEN MAN and DR. WAITRESS look deep into each other’s eyes.
WAITRESS: Oh, how can I ever thank you, heroic stranger?
Just then, a massive explosion is heard in the background.
GREEN MAN: I guess you’ll have some time to think about it.
With that, GREEN MAN leaps into action with TROLL BOY trailing behind.

TITLE CARD: “Green Man 3: Rise of the Golden God”
Credits roll over silhouettes of the main characters, accompanied by a dark-but-heroic score.

INT/NIGHT: News Studio
We join a news broadcast, already underway.
NEWS ANCHOR: To recap, if you’re just joining us – a huge blast-type explosion has just created a hole-like-crater in the side of the Philadelphia Institute of Science, home to the some of the world’s most advanced technologies and stuff. Mayor Brian LeFevre says authorities are still surveying the inventory to determine what, if anything, might have been stolen.
CUT TO INT/NIGHT: The Green Room
GREEN MAN and TROLL BOY – now out of costume and under their real identities, CHARLES KELLY and FRANK REYNOLDS – are watching the newscast in their hideout, The Green Room (which is just Paddy’s, but with a bunch of high-tech looking stuff around). CHARLES grabs a martini from the bar. He’s a slick-looking, well-dressed playboy type. Frank is dressed like a slob as always, wearing a sweaty shirt with orange stains.
CHARLES: What do you think, Frank?
FRANK: I don’t know. The walls of the Philadelphia Institute of Science are reinforced with ultranesium; whoever blew that hole-like-crater must have had some serious firepower.
CHARLES stirs his martini and ponders.
CHARLES: Hmm. I’m going to go check it out.
FRANK: Don’t you have a date tonight?
CHARLIE: I’ll make it… Don’t wait up.
CHARLES grabs his Green Suit and heads out.

INT/NIGHT: The Philadelphia Institute of Science
COMMISSIONER PEACOCK (Dee) and her team have the scene sealed off. DEPUTY GUTTERGASH (Artemis) approaches her.
DEPUTY GUTTERGASH: Alright Commissioner, whole place has been sealed off and combed down. You want us to keep at it?
COMMISSIONER PEACOCK: Nah, send the boys home. You get some rest too, Guttergash.
GUTTERGASH: And you, ma’am?
PEACOCK: I’m going to stick around for a bit.
GUTTERGASH: Yes ma’am… Well, goodnight.
GUTTERGASH and the rest of the cops clear out. COMMISSIONER PEACOCK crouches over a pile of rubble and sighs.
All of a sudden, MAYOR BRIAN LEFEVRE (Dennis) walks into the scene with his silent bodyguard ENRIQUE BEEFCAKE (Mac). MAYOR LEFEVRE stops and allows ENRIQUE to perform an ocular patdown of PEACOCK. He clears her, and LEFEVRE steps forward.
LEFEVRE: Peacock! Please tell me it isn’t true! They got… it?
PEACOCK sighs.
PEACOCK: I’m sorry, sir.
LEFFEVRE: Jesus Christ, Peacock! Well, what are you doing to find it?
PEACOCK: We have our best men on it, sir, and we’ve traced –
LEFEVRE: Shut up, Peacock. Find it – now. Or I’ll find a Police Commissioner who can.
MAYOR LEFEVRE and ENRIQUE leave the scene. PEACOCK crouches back over the rubble and sighs again.
PEACOCK: What the hell am I missing?
A voice from the background.
GREEN MAN: Same thing as everybody else… the big picture.
PEACOCK turns around. GREEN MAN steps out of the shadows.
GREEN MAN: What did they take?
PEACOCK sighs.
GREEN MAN: What – did they take?
PEACOCK: Twelve years ago, Philadelphia’s top scientists discovered a way to perfectly duplicate atomic mass. The mayor has kept it under wraps ever since, developing all kinds of military applications for it.
GREEN MAN: Jesus Christ… You mean – whoever just blew this hole-like-crater the size of a small basin is out there running around with some kind of… cloning machine?
PEACOCK: That’s right, Green Man.
GREEN MAN notices something under a piece of rubble in the corner. He goes and picks it up. It’s an empty syringe.
PEACOCK: What the hell is that?
GREEN MAN: I think I might have just found the needle in this haystack…

EXT/NIGHT: Outside the Philadelphia Institute of Science
MAYOR LEFEVRE and ENRIQUE are walking from the Institute to their car, the driver waiting in it at the curb. All of a sudden, Philadelphia Tribune ace newshound SCOOPS MCKENZIE (Lawyer) walks out of the shadows and approaches the mayor.
SCOOPS MCKENZIE: Mayor LeFevre? Scoops McKenzie, Philadelphia Tribune. Mind if I ask you a few questions about the break-in tonight?
MAYOR LEFEVRE: We’re still looking into McKenzie, there’s nothing more to say.
SCOOPS: Oh, is that so?... Because I did a little diggin’ – spun through the rolodex once or twice, greased a wheel or two – and I happened to come across a little email chain between the mayor’s office and a certain… geneticist?
ENRIQUE steps forward, cracks his knuckles, and gets into a karate stance. MAYOR LEFEVRE steps forward as well and puts his hand on ENRIQUE’s shoulder.
MAYOR LEFEVRE: Stand down Enrique, it’s OK. We’re all professionals here! I have to admit, McKenzie – I’m a big fan of your work.
SCOOPS: Well I appreciate that mayor, but unfortunately flattery wasn’t the answer I was looking for. Now I’m just giving you a chance to comment here – but either way, this story runs front page tomorrow.
MAYOR LEFEVRE: Ha… Well, then. I can see I’ve been bested. This is going to be a big story for you, McKenzie… Congratulations.
MAYOR LEFEVRE extends his hand to SCOOPS to shake. SCOOPS pauses, and then cautiously reaches out and shakes. Just then, MAYOR LEFEVRE’s eyes and hair light up a bright gold – assuming the power of his alter-ego, THE GOLDEN GOD. SCOOPS screams, and rips his hand away – but it’s too late. The gold spreads from SCOOPS’ hand across his body – entombing him in seconds. MAYOR LEFEVRE’s eyes and hair return to normal. He turns to ENRIQUE.
MAYOR LEFEVRE: Get rid of the body. And then go get those surveillance tapes. I’ve got work to do.
MAYOR LEFEVRE gestures to a security camera pointed toward them. ENRIQUE nods and lifts the solid gold body like it’s a feather. He disappears into the night. MAYOR LEFEVRE gets in the backseat of the car, and it drives off.

INT/NIGHT: Johnny Lowlife’s Hideout
Small-time criminal JOHNNY LOWLIFE (Cricket) is tying off in his “hideout”, a couple of boxes and sheets underneath an overpass. JOHNNY sings as he prepares to shoot up.
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: Hair-oh-ween, if ya know what I mean! I would lick a spleen, for some hair-oh-ween!
He reaches around for something, but can’t seem to find it. A voice from the background.
GREEN MAN: Looking for something?
JOHNNY jumps up and then recoils in fear.
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: Ah, oh God, no!
GREEN MAN: Only you’d be stupid enough to leave a kickprick at a crime scene, Johnny Lowlife.
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: I’m sorry! I just needed some crank, bad! I tried to rob some teens but they overpowered me and threw me down a manhole!
GREEN MAN: The real mystery is how a waste of oxygen like you manages to blow through an ultranesium wall… and why. So start talking.
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: Look, man – I just did a job for these two brothers. That’s all. They brought the juice, I just made the bang go pop – OK? Then they sent some other guy in to take care of the rest.
GREEN MAN: These brothers – what were their names?
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: I don’t know their names. All I know is they operate out of the old dairy factory on Third – and they pay cash.
GREEN MAN: What? How do you know they’re brothers if you don’t know their names?
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: I don’t… I don’t know how I know that...
GREEN MAN stares at JOHNNY LOWLIFE and then starts to walk away.
JOHNNY LOWLIFE: Hey, can I have my syringe?
GREEN MAN tosses the syringe into a pile of dog crap. JOHNNY LOWLIFE picks it up immediately.
GREEN MAN pulls out his phone and calls TROLL BOY.
GREEN MAN: Troll Boy. Do me a favour – head over to the old dairy factory on Third. I’ll text you the details… I’ve got a date to catch.

INT/NIGHT: The Old Dairy Factory
TROLL BOY walks through the old dairy factory. It’s dark and dusty.
TROLL BOY: Don’t even know what the hell I’m lookin’ for here. Two guys that might be brothers? While Charles is off wreckin’ some clam? This is some goddamn bullshit – I hate being a sidekick.
TROLL BOY hears a crack and whips around. A gang of criminals step out of the shadows, led by the BOILER BROTHERS – BERT BOILER (Liam McPoyle) and BART BOILER (Ryan McPoyle). The BOILER BROTHERS are each holding a jar of brownish milk, and both are sporting milk moustaches.
BERT BOILER: Who the hell are you?
BART BOILER: Some kind of Monster Grandpa?
TROLL BOY: It’s Troll Boy, dickhead.
BART BOILER: Well, I mean, you’re definitely not a boy.
BERT BOILER: What are you doing here, Troll Boy?
TROLL BOY: Looking for you two, I imagine.
BERT BOILER opens his jar of brown milk. TROLL BOY recoils at the smell.
TROLL BOY: Oh, Christ – are you drinking that milk? That shit’s probably been sittin’ here since the Depression!
BERT BOILER: This is hyper-pasteurized goat’s milk from 1935.
BART BOILER: It’s been aged to perfection. The vitamins have been stewing in their own juices for nearly a century.
BERT BOILER: This milk is packed with such an intense concentration of nutrients, each sip gives us a superhuman-like boost of adrenaline.
BART BOILER: And it tastes divine – especially at room temperature.
BERT BOILER: We call it hypermilk.
TROLL BOY: Oh God, it smells like someone died in an outhouse!
BERT BOILER: What are you doing here, Troll Boy!?
TROLL BOY: Jesus, that stinks… Are you the two brothers that hired Johnny Lowlife to break into the Institute of Science?
BERT BOILER: Well we are brothers – Bert and Bart Boiler, the Boiler Brothers – but as for the other thing…
BART BOILER: That sounds like a question you shouldn’t be asking…
LUCIUS, an enormous and imposing member of the BOILER BROTHERS’ gang, steps forward. He chugs a jar of hypermilk, smashes the empty jar, and lets out a primal scream. He grabs a baseball bat wrapped in rusty chains and laughs maniacally as he walks toward TROLL BOY. TROLL BOY pulls out his pistol and shoots LUCIUS in the stomach. LUCIUS drops to his knees. The gang screams in horror. TROLL BOY executes LUCIUS, point blank.
BERT BOILER: What the hell is wrong with you!? Are you insane!?
TROLL BOY: What!? He was about to beat me with a baseball bat!
BERT BOILER: So you punch him! You throw him into a wall! You don’t shoot him in the stomach and head!!
TROLL BOY: Look at me, you think I can pick that guy up and throw him? He’s got like 200 pounds on me! Plus he was all hopped up on the milk!
BART BOILER: You really are a Monster Grandpa!
TROLL BOY: Alright, screw this.
TROLL BOY fires a round into the ceiling.
TROLL BOY: Now tell me why you hired Johnny Lowlife to do the Institute job or I’ll blow every single one of you bastards full of holes!
BERT BOILER: Alright, alright – look… We were just in charge of getting into the place, so we hired the only person desperate enough for drug money to handle the extremely dangerous amount of unstable explosive material needed to blow through ultranesium.
TROLL BOY: Lowlife told my partner that someone else was sent in to finish the job… Who was it?
The BOILER BROTHERS look at each other. Silence. TROLL BOY fires another round into the ceiling.
TROLL BOY: Who was it!?
BART BOILER: Enrique Beefcake!
BERT: Bart!
BART: You saw how casually he murdered Lucius, man. If you want to die for them, that’s fine – but I’m not ready to go yet, man – I just bought a houseboat!
BERT: Wait… you’re moving out?
TROLL BOY fires a third round into the ceiling. The BOILER BROTHERS jump back to attention.
TROLL BOY: You mean Enrique Beefcake, as in the mayor’s right-hand man? Why the hell would the mayor break into his own Institute?
BERT BOILER: Look, we’ve told you all we know. Now can you please leave so we can clean up our friend’s corpse and give him a proper Amish burial?
TROLL BOY: Sure. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry about shooting him. But you know, could be a good lesson… maybe it’s time to start carrying guns, right?
TROLL BOY: Ok, I’m going.
TROLL BOY starts to leave, but notices a crate of hypermilk by the exit. He looks back, picks up a few jars, slips them into his utility belt – and leaves.

INT/NIGHT: Philadelphia Police Headquarters
COMMISSIONER PEACOCK sits at her desk in the empty office. She’s looking at papers on her desk. PEACOCK sighs, leans back, and makes a phone call. She pauses for a few seconds as the line rings out and goes to voicemail.
PEACOCK: Hey honey… Tried your cell a few times, figured I’d see if you were maybe home already – but I guess you must just be slammed with all of this. I suppose it’ll be a long night for both of us. Anyways, give me a shout if you get a few seconds. Love you.
CUT TO INT/NIGHT: Commissioner Peacock’s Home
As Peacock’s voicemail ends – we see the landline phone at her home. The camera pulls back to reveal a wedding photo on the wall behind the phone – it’s of COMMISSIONER PEACOCK and her husband, SCOOPS MCKENZIE.
CUT BACK TO INT/NIGHT: Philadelphia Police Headquarters
PEACOCK hangs up the phone and sighs. DEPUTY GUTTERGASH walks into the office with two cups of coffee.
GUTTERGASH: Need a recharge?
PEACOCK smiles, and GUTTERGASH hands her the coffee.
PEACOCK: I thought I told you to get some rest, Guttergash.
GUTTERGASH: Ah, I just got one of these instead.
GUTTERGASH raises her coffee cup. PEACOCK laughs and takes a long sip.
PEACOCK: That does hit the spot.
GUTTERGASH: Yep, nothing does the trick like a good old fashioned cup of joe with some crushed Modanifil and three ounces of liquid methylphenidate.
PEACOCK pauses.
PEACOCK: … What? What are those words? What the hell did you just give me?
GUTTERGASH: Yeah, I call it a booster shot! Gets the blood moving.
PEACOCK: Oh my god. I drank like a third of this already!
GUTTERGASH: Ooo – that’s not good. Better to go slow, this stuff is real potent.
PEACOCK: Umm, I can smell shapes! Is that supposed to happen?
GUTTERGASH: Not for a few hours at least.
PEACOCK picks up a glass and hurls it across the room. She screams at the top of her lungs.
GUTTERGASH: Oh boy. Well, I should probably skip out – I really just came by to drop off the booster shot… and this.
GUTTERGASH pulls a USB stick from her pocket and puts it on PEACOCK’s desk.
PEACOCK: What? What? What the hell is this?
GUTTERGASH: Well we already reviewed all the surveillance from the scene of the break-in, but this is the footage from the other cameras around the building.
PEACOCK: I thought that footage was destroyed!? They destroyed it!!
GUTTERGASH: It’s the 21st century - everything gets backed up.
GUTTERGASH leaves. PEACOCK stares at the USB stick. She screams at the top of her lungs again and punches a hole in a cubicle divider.

EXT/NIGHT: The Swan’s Knuckle
CHARLES, out of costume, arrives in his million-dollar Italian sportscar – the Sexerati Thrusterosa – at Philadelphia’s finest restaurant, The Swan’s Knuckle. He gives the keys to the valet and walks into the restaurant. In the foyer he spots a woman in a beautiful dress, facing away from him.
CHARLES: Look at you – early as usual.
His date turns around. It’s DR. WAITRESS.
DR. WAITRESS: Well, hello handsome.
The two embrace and share a passionate kiss.
CUT TO INT/NIGHT: The Swan’s Knuckle
CHARLES and DR. WAITRESS are at their table.
CHARLES: So… have they told you what was stolen yet?
DR. WAITRESS: No, not yet. The cops won’t let any staff into the Institute until they’re finished in there, which could be weeks.
CHARLES: Are you worried it be could be something dangerous in the wrong hands?
DR. WAITRESS: I don’t know, Charles. Knowing what’s in there though… The possibilities are scary.
CHARLES: So… anything else exciting happen today?
DR. WAITRESS pauses.
DR. WAITRESS: Um, nope. Nothing I can think of.
CHARLES looks at DR. WAITRESS suspiciously, but suddenly - his phone vibrates. He looks at it and reads the text from Frank: “Mayor behind Institute break-in. Meet at City Hall NOW”. CHARLES is shocked.
DR. WAITRESS: Is everything OK, sweetheart?
CHARLES: Um, no – actually. There’s… been a fire at one of the factories…
DR. WAITRESS: Oh my god!
CHARLES: Yeah, hundreds of good, hard-working people burned to a crisp… So I probably should be going!
DR. WAITRESS: Yeah, of – of course. Go. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
CHARLES: Thanks, Darling. I’ll make it up to you.
CHARLES kisses DR. WAITRESS and dashes out. DR. WAITRESS watches CHARLES leave, and as soon as he exits – she dashes out the back exit. Seconds later, THE GUGINO’S WAITER arrives at their table carrying a bottle of wine.
GUGINO’S WAITER: Here we are, our finest wine – uncorked after 73 years just for –
The GUGINO’S WAITER realizes there’s nobody at the table. He looks around.
GUGINO’S WAITER: Oh, goddamn it.

EXT/NIGHT: Streets of Philadelphia
TROLL BOY is running through the streets of Philadelphia to meet GREEN MAN at City Hall. He cuts down a dark back road. A figure steps out of the shadows onto the sidewalk. It’s CRIMINAL 1, from the first scene of the episode. He’s got a gun.
TROLL BOY: Oh, shit! It’s you!
CRIMINAL 1: You… you killed him… you killed my Bruno.
TROLL BOY reaches for his gun. CRIMINAL 1 pulls the hammer back on his gun and points it at TROLL BOY’s head.
CRIMINAL 1: Don’t – move! … Ever since that fateful moment, that moment when you took the person dearest to me from this Earth … I’ve been thinking about what I’d say to you when I saw you. Meticulously choosing each word, obsessively rehearsing and –
All of a sudden, a police cruiser comes out of nowhere and crushes CRIMINAL 1.
TROLL BOY: Oh, shit!
PEACOCK jumps out, gun drawn, still tweaking on the drugs GUTTERGASH slipped her.
PEACOCK: Hey! Troll Boy! Do you know where –
PEACOCK notices the corpse of CRIMINAL 1 under her car.
PEACOCK: OK, no time for that – Troll Boy, we’ve gotta go – we’ve gotta get Green Man. The mayor killed my husband and I want to go get some revenge.
PEACOCK: Yeah, he killed my husband – he turned him into gold, I guess he’s got some kind of power where he can turn people into gold, and he did that to my husband and so now my husband is gold and dead. Anyways, I’m absolutely flying on some shit my deputy slipped into my coffee so I haven’t been able to emotionally process anything yet, I’m just really, really focused on this revenge, and getting it – on the mayor, for turning my husband into a dead, gold, dead guy. So, let’s go get Green Man – and let’s go. Let’s go, ok?
TROLL BOY: Yeah, oh – OK. We’re actually heading there already anyways to -
PEACOCK fires her gun into the air and screams at the top of her lungs. TROLL BOY runs around to the other side of the cruiser and gets in the passenger seat. PEACOCK gets in the driver’s seat and peels out. TROLL BOY notices a coffee cup in the cupholder.
TROLL BOY: So, is this the coffee with the drugs in it?
PEACOCK: Yeah, I figured I’m probably going to need all the energy I can for this revenge scheme.
TROLL BOY: Huh… Can I have a couple sipskis?
PEACOCK: Yeah, please – it’s actually good if you chug a lot of it real fast.
TROLL BOY pulls out a jar of hypermilk.
TROLL BOY: Oh, wait – I got this rank milk, these assholes were getting cranked up off it – I killed one of them, but I got took some of their milk. Should we put some in the coffee?
PEACOCK: Yeah, sure – rank milk, put the rank milk in.
TROLL BOY pours some of the hypermilk into the coffee.
TROLL BOY: Bottoms up bitch!
TROLL BOY chugs the coffee. PEACOCK laughs maniacally as the cruiser tears through the streets of Philly.

INT/NIGHT: News Studio
We rejoin the broadcast, now with breaking news.
NEWS ANCHOR: If you’re just joining us, we have some sad and shocking news to report. One of this city’s journalistic giants, Scoops McKenzie of the Philadelphia Tribune – was found dead earlier this evening, his body encased in a gold-like-substance, most likely gold… In an another disturbing twist, whoever responsible for the murder had tied a magnifying glass above the corpse, appearing to incorrectly assume the sun would melt it in the morning. Police are still –
The broadcast cuts to static for a few seconds, before cutting to a shot of THE GOLDEN GOD – now in a golden warlock-like costume and aviation goggles to go along with his hair and eyes.
GOLDEN GOD: A goddamn magnifying glass? What a moron. (Notices he’s live) Oh - hello Philadelphia! What do you think of my work? You don’t have to answer – I know you love it. It’s gold, after all – and everyone loves gold. Sweet, pure, powerful gold. And soon, you – just like Scoops McKenzie – will have your gold. I will deliver it to you. For I… AM THE GOLDEN GOD! AND I WILL POUR THE MOLTEN SUN UPON THE WORLDS OF MEN! Bow to me now, Philadelphia – and perhaps some of you will be spared.
GOLDEN GOD laughs maniacally, and the feed cuts back to the studio. The news anchor is entombed in solid gold.

EXT/NIGHT: Philadelphia City Hall
Green Man arrives in front of City Hall as the rain starts to pour. He stares at the building – a crack of lighting, and he’s gone.
CUT TO – INT/NIGHT: Philadelphia City Hall
Two security guards patrol the lobby.
SECURITY GUARD 1: So, should we go grab a drink in celebration of this, our last shift as security guards?
SECURITY GUARD 2: Absolutely – I can’t wait to begin my new life at the monastery tomorrow.
SECURITY GUARD 1: Nor me, to start my new career as a face model!
Just then, GREEN MAN flashes out of nowhere and strikes SECURITY GUARD 1 directly in the face. He stumbles back and lands face-first in a barrel labeled “Broken Glass for the Homeless”. GREEN MAN turns and walks toward SECURITY GUARD 2.
SECURITY GUARD 2: Wait, I’m still discovering the four Noble Truths!
GREEN MAN: Number three… there is an end to suffering!
GREEN MAN tosses SECURITY GUARD 2 into a wall, knocking him unconscious.
CUT TO - INT/NIGHT: Philadelphia City Hall
A montage rolls of GREEN MAN taking down security guards around City Hall, on his way up to the Mayor’s Office. He reaches a hallway that with a sign that reads “This way to Mayor’s Office – must be 18 (IDs WILL be checked)”. As he runs down the hall, the lights go out. When they come back on, ENRIQUE BEEFCAKE stands between GREEN MAN and the Mayor’s Office – his signature cat eyes in place.
GREEN MAN: Beefcake! We don’t have to do this!
ENRIQUE charges at GREEN MAN. The two of them clash in awesome hand-to-hand combat. Equally matched, they pause to catch their breath – and GREEN MAN notices a cross and rosary beads around ENQIRUE’s neck that has become visible during the fighting.
GREEN MAN: Ah… a religious man, are you Beefcake?
ENRIQUE doesn’t respond.
GREEN MAN: Huh… Must be hard listening to your boss walk around calling himself “The Golden God”.
ENRIQUE looks away in thought.
GREEN MAN: Tell me Beefcake… does the Bible say anything about worshipping other Gods?
ENRIQUE clutches his rosary beads.
GREEN MAN: Killing people, turning them into gold… I wonder what Jesus would think about that…
ENRIQUE sighs heavily. He stares at his cross.
GREEN MAN: Come with me, Beefcake… Repent with me. We can put an end to this, together.
ENRIQUE looks down in shame. He takes his cat eyes off and throws them on the ground. He looks up at GREEN MAN, who smiles. ENRIQUE walks toward GREEN MAN – pauses – and then continues to walk past him, toward the exit. GREEN MAN sighs, and runs toward the Mayor’s Office.

INT/NIGHT: The Mayor’s Office/Laboratory
GREEN MAN walks into the Mayor’s Office, to discover it’s a massive laboratory. GOLDEN GOD is nowhere to be seen – but his voice suddenly echoes throughout the room.
GOLDEN GOD: Hello Green Man… Why do I get the feeling you aren’t here to surrender?
GREEN MAN: Show yourself LeFevre!
MAYOR LEFEVRE steps out of the shadows, back in his regular mayoral outfit.
GREEN MAN runs toward MAYOR LEFEVRE. He hits him with a powerful uppercut, and MAYOR LEFEVRE flies back into a shelf. The shelf falls onto him. GREEN MAN stares at the corpse of MAYOR LEFEVRE, and begins to turn around. Suddenly, another MAYOR LEFEVRE tazes him in the neck, and GREEN MAN blacks out.
CUT TO – INT/NIGHT: The Mayor’s Office/Laboratory
GREEN MAN comes to – only to realize he’s in a high-tech chair being held down by steel restrainers. He struggles to break free, but it’s no use. GOLDEN GOD walks into view.
GOLDEN GOD: Philadelphia’s Greatest Hero… The Green Man. Do you know you’re child’s play to me? Do you see that now? I could kill you this instant.
GREEN MAN: Then why don’t you?
GOLDEN GOD: Because, you fool – I need to reveal my secret plan!
GREEN MAN: I’m assuming you’re going to make an army of clones of yourself and use it to turn everyone else gold?
GOLDEN GOD: I’m going to – eh, what? Damn, it Green Man - you figured out my plan?
GREEN MAN: Well, yeah. Pretty – pretty easy to piece together.
GOLDEN GOD: Well whatever, the plan may be conceptually simple, but it’s a goddamn good one…
GOLDEN GOD stares off into space and daydreams…
CUT TO – EXT/DAY: Philadelphia in Mayor Lefevre’s Fantasy
In his daydream, MAYOR LEFEVRE walks down a colorful city street on a beautiful sunny day. As he walks, he passes MAYOR LEFEVRE clones out and about, chatting on steps, working in the shops and waving to MAYOR LEFEVRE as he goes by. They’re the only people on the street.
MAYOR LEFEVRE CLONE 1: Morning, Brian!
MAYOR LEFEVRE CLONE 2: Lovely day, ay Brian?
MAYOR LEFEVRE: Hope it never ends, my friend!
He sees a MAYOR LEFEVRE clone struggling to lift a box onto the back of a truck.
MAYOR LEFEVRE: Need a hand with that Brian?
MAYOR LEFEVRE CLONE 3: Oh, that’d be great.
The two MAYOR LEFEVREs lift the box onto the truck.
MAYOR LEFEVRE CLONE 3: So… how can I… thank you?
The two MAYOR LEFEVREs start passionately making out. Other MAYOR LEFEVRE clones crowd around, aroused by what they see.
CUT BACK TO INT/NIGHT: The Mayor’s Office/Laboratory
GOLDEN GOD’s eyes are still closed.
GOLDEN GOD: Oooh… Oh yeah. Get in there, boys.
GREEN MAN: Um, what the fuck is happening?
GOLDEN GOD snaps back to reality.
GOLDEN GOD: Oh. Uh… Excuse me…
GOLDEN GOD turns and strolls as he talks.
GOLDEN GOD: We can only use the replicator to create powerless versions of my likeness for now… We need to modify the process for my unique genetic code in order to clone my powers as well – something we were planning to do in secrecy, before that goddamn reporter had to ruin everything!
GREEN MAN: Wait… we?
GOLDEN GOD: Yes… You could say I’m more of the brawn in this operation… And the looks.
DR. WAITRESS steps out of the shadows.
DR. WAITRESS: (to Golden God) Well hello, handsome.
GREEN MAN gasps.
DR. WAITRESS: I see you remember me, Green Man. You should have let those thugs kill me in that alley… I guess I’m not going to get the chance to thank you after all.
GREEN MAN: Why are you helping this guy?
DR. WAITRESS walks back over to GOLDEN GOD and starts stroking his arm.
DR. WAITRESS: Because he’s a God – and I worship him.
GREEN MAN: Are you serious? I bet he doesn’t even know your name!
GOLDEN GOD laughs nervously.
GOLDEN GOD: Ha… That’s – that’s ridiculous… Uh, silence! Silence, by the way!
DR. WAITRESS steps back and looks at GOLDEN GOD.
DR. WAITRESS: OK… what’s my name?
GOLDEN GOD stumbles.
DR. WAITRESS: Oh, are you kidding me!?
GOLDEN GOD: Um, you’re my Golden Goddess! I’m the Golden God and you’re my Golden Goddess!
DR. WAITRESS: You are such an asshole! You know what, I’m helping this guy now.
DR. WAITRESS starts to walk toward GREEN MAN. GOLDEN GOD shrugs and grabs DR. WAITRESS’ shoulder. His hair glows. DR. WAITRESS rips herself away – but it’s too late.
GREEN MAN: No! Dr. Waitress!
GOLDEN GOD: Right, that’s it.
DR. WAITRESS stares back at GREEN MAN as she turns to gold.
GOLDEN GOD: Well now I’m going to have to find another smart-but-pathetic girl to do all the heavy lifting here – so thanks for that, Green Man. You know what, just for that – you die now.
A group of MAYOR LEFEVRE clones step out of the shadow.
GOLDEN GOD: It’s been fun – but I think I’m going to go walk around and turn some people into gold. Then I’ll call it a night. Boys…
GOLDEN GOD walks out of the room as the MAYOR LEFEVRE clones gather around GREEN MAN. Just as they’re about to attack – PEACOCK and TROLL BOY burst into the room, tweaking and guns blazing. PEACOCK shoots a clone in the head and the rest scatter; PEACOCK chases them down, laughing maniacally, while TROLL BOY runs to GREEN MAN’s rescue. TROLL BOY still has the coffee in his hands.
TROLL BOY: Hey, hey Charles. Sorry about all this. Here ya go!
TROLL BOY uses his drug-induced superhuman strength to rip the restrainers clean off the chair.
GREEN MAN: Holy shit, dude!
TROLL BOY: Yeah, we drank some of this coffee – it’s full of stuff, lots of stuff Charles. You want some?
GREEN MAN: Uh – no thanks, man.
TROLL BOY: OK, great – more for me. Anyways, let Peacock and me kill these clones – you go get that gold bitch!
TROLL BOY screams and runs after a clone, firing randomly. GREEN MAN chases after GOLDEN GOD.

INT / NIGHT: Philadelphia City Hall – Main Lobby
GREEN MAN arrives in the main lobby of City Hall, just as GOLDEN GOD is about to walk out the front doors to unleash havoc on Philadelphia.
GREEN MAN: Lefevre! We’re not done!
GOLDEN GOD turns around. His hair glows. He raises his hands, also glowing.
GOLDEN GOD: You fool! I am a God! You’re just a man in a green suit - you’re no match for me!
A voice from the background. It’s a horrible Swedish accent.
ENRIQUE BEEFCAKE: Vell vhy don’t ve even de odds!
GREEN MAN: Beefcake!
BEEFCAKE: Dere’s only one God, mayor – and his name is… vell, ve don’t really – he doesn’t actually have a… It’s God. God is God.
GOLDEN GOD: Silence, moron! Ugh, I hate that goddamn voice. Banning you from speaking was absolutely the right decision.
GREEN MAN: You banned him from speaking? I just thought he was a mute! (To Beefcake) Come on Beefcake – let’s do this.
ENRIQUE: Yeah, OK – dat’s good Green Man! Just don’t let him touch you or he’ll turn you into the gold having!
GOLDEN GOD: Oh – what, are you German now?
ENRIQUE and GREEN MAN descend on GOLDEN GOD. In a beautiful, coordinated attack, they pummel him from either side while dodging each of GOLDEN GOD’s attempts to grasp them. GREEN MAN delivers the final blow – a powerful kick to the head. GOLDEN GOD falls to his knees. The glow in his eyes and hair goes out. He falls over, badly beaten and dazed – but still alive.
GREEN MAN: Now, time to lock you up where you’ll never hurt another so–
PEACOCK and TROLL BOY burst in again, still tweaking. They shoot the mayor over and over as they scream.
PEACOCK: Yeah, that’s right bitch! That’s what you get for turning my husband gold, you gold jackass. Gold piece of shit!
TROLL BOY: I don’t want to be a sidekick anymore! I hate it! I want the cars and the broads and I want to say cool shit!
GREEN MAN: God… damn it.
ENRIQUE: Yeah! Dat’s right! Send him to Hell!
TROLL BOY: Hey Enrique! Want a pick-me-up?
TROLL BOY still has the coffee. He hands it to ENRIQUE, who takes a sip. ENRIQUE’s eyes widen. He grabs TROLL BOY’s gun and starts shooting GOLDEN GOD’s corpse along with PEACOCK. TROLL BOY cheers them on. As they continue to shoot and cheer, the camera pulls out back into the streets of Philadelphia.
CUT TO - EXT/NIGHT: Downtown Philadelphia
A montage of the city rolls.
NARRATOR: Well, Philadelphia. You’re safe – for another day, at least. Lucky you. I guess the only question is – what’s waiting tomorrow?
The GREEN MAN’s silhouette flashes through the streets.
NARRATOR: Whatever it is… You can sleep easy, Philadelphia… Because he’s out there. Watching. Listening. The defender… the seeker of justice… the – Green Man!

Wow - you actually read this entire thing? Thank you so much!
I also wrote another episode if you care to check it out: Charlie's Place.
Thanks again for reading!!
submitted by fadtastic to redditwritessunny [link] [comments]

Shadows of Liamhigin Y Dwr

Taken from the notes and patient files of Dr Simon Kearns, a psychologist of the employ to Bourkeley Institution for Mental Corrections in Australia.
File found on a hard disk within a folder entitled ‘Case Files in the Chambers mystery’.
There is a certain time of year, during the Australian summer, when the heavy boughs of gum trees slant too mournfully, catching glints of dying sunlight between clawed fingers of dried brown leaves.
When the shadows on the grass, who hug so tenderly to rotten mulch and decaying plant life, and which attract nebby swarms of meddlesome insects, seem to grow too significantly darker at sundown.
In this heavy setting, a psychologist is twice as prone to feel the lethargy of sorrow that accompanies the job, the depression of accumulated lost causes. I have seen too many of the world’s downtrodden, slipping through the cracks. Fleeting and overwhelming moments of futility, that grip at the heart, like pangs, which yet are all part of the job.
But perhaps no single vision or location brings me to such a state of unutterable recreancy, as the ragged bush trail which leads down to Van Ghulin’s river, for it was there I finally understood why the word ‘panic’ derives from the Satyr Gods of the Ancient world.
It was the doleful end of 2015, and the air was languid, the heat carrying on into the early hours of dusk, and I was walking alone, down the beaten path less travelled, injured and cut, whipped by banksia branches, and stung by nettles.
I was only nine yards from the river when the rustling in the shrubbery became uncannily wild, and with sheer terror, I turned, and spied the ferocious shape leaping out towards me, from behind a ‘black boy’ shrub.
But I suppose I should explain the trail of enquiry that led me to explore the scavenous foliage in the first place. That dank shrubbery that sprouts with godless abandon, next to that foul smelling, yellow river of Moonsmoth.
The case had begun when I received a furlorn phone call from one Detective Barrington. It seemed the Hexton police required the assistance of a medical professional, and my reputation as an eminent psychologist had apparently preceeded me.
Barrington pleaded in his woebegone, woebegong manner, so that it was virtually impossible to refuse the request, else appearing an uncaring monster. So I found myself being picked up on a Sunday in a Paddy Wagon, and to think it weren’t even St Patrick’s Day, raw deal mate.
On the way to the hospital, in the still, beefy air of the cop car, Officer Barrington explained the specifics around the peculiar incident. A stunted man, with quiffed, brown hair, and tuna sandwich breath.
It wasn’t the first time I had been called to help as acting psychologist in a missing persons case, but this particular matter was a little out of protocol.
The police case itself was a cut and dry case, most probably an abduction. Beautiful 17 year old high school girl, already working as an Instagram model, by the name of Chelsea Chambers. She’d up and disappeared around August, on a Wednesday afternoon. Said goodbye to her school friends at Beachley High School at 2:45pm, then been seen having a fight with her current boyfriend, Harvey, (still under suspicion by police), just outside the school grounds. Mr and Mrs Chambers, her upper middle class parents were the ones that called the police, Chelsea never came home that night.
However, it was the anomalous last witness that I was being called in to apply my psychological wizardry toward.
Around 9:pm, the owner of the ‘Proud Bull Petrol Station’ on Gatwick Road said he saw an old, grey haired man driving a Scarlet Red Mini-Moke —who pulled into the gas station next to a female passenger, with short blonde hair. Now, Gatwick Road, runs about a mile round a bend and you come to the bushland of the Hoovesclap National Park, right where the old trail leads to the aforementioned yellow river. It’s a common place for high school students to sneak away, and smoke a bong, or have unprotected sex. But occasionally even dodgier types hang out down in the shrubs around Van Ghulin’s river, and the calling cards of syringes, broken beer bottles and used condoms sully the corrupted dirt, leading downward until the soil becomes wet mangrovey mud.
There had also been two unsolved murder cases in the area, where the bodies were dumped in the river. Incredibly brutal, unwholesomely deranged acts of sadism. Sexual violence. Flayed skin. decapitated body parts arranged in certain locations around a group of stones, the killer intended to send a message. Worst case scenario, the police were still keeping the options open— that this was the third victim in a serial killing.
Mr Web, the owner of the petroleum station sat in with the police sketch artist, and positively identified the girl he had seen in the red moke, as the young Chelsea Chambers.
The detailed drawing of the old, grey haired man took slightly longer to identify. In fact, according to Barrington, it was only by a happy coincidence that they got a positive ID on him at all. Barrington said he’d taken the phone call himself. Another police patrol man described the face of the old, grey haired man who had turned up in a Hexton Hospital bed, the Friday immediately following Chelsea’s disappearance.
Barrington had stared at the picture like a hawk, confirming every exact detail on the police sketch as it was described on the phone. A ragged, sun worn face with wide eyes, opaque, grey, almost blue,.... like windows.
Hair almost white, parted into tufts which stood out like fluffy koala ears. A neatly trimmed beard and white moustache, a strange kind of fear written on his face. The comatose man, matched the police sketch perfectly, there was only one problem, he was almost incommunicable, in a semi brain damaged state.
That was “Old Mac” Dennison, the man we were driving to visit in the Hospital. The police believed that Dennison was the last person to see Chelsea alive, and wanted me to use my psychological knowledge to probe his damaged mind, and press him for details on the missing girl. Barrington suspected the worse, that Dennison had probably raped and killed her.
Dennison had been diagnosed with a deteriorating form of ‘fog delusion’. According to his boss, “Old Mac” was working the day shift on Friday, (he worked for Hexton Telecommunications, as a technician), and had finished work at 6pm on Wednesday, giving him no alibi for the night Chelsea disappeared. On Friday, he drove out to a routine line check at no. 13 MacArthur Street at about 11:30am. He had allegedly been tampering with the electrical wiring on the property to resolve a wireless connection issue, the owner of the property has roughly confirmed this. Said the old man was complaining about HexTel and swearing a lot, wearing his dirty blue overalls, then there had been a loud electrical explosion, and the owner of the property had dashed down the stairs, found that Mr Dennison had been electrocuted, quickly telephoning an ambulance, and the man was then taken to Hexton Hospital.
“Old Mac” as he is known by neighbours and locals to the area, is currently in a semi communicable state, he has a tangential train of thought, that is mostly unreliable. The condition, caused by shock and paralysis has only been recently added to the manual for diagnosed mental disorders. ‘Fog Delusion’ is a form of mental deterioration, sharing similarities with dementia. Patient’s undergoing the fairly rare condition usually describe the feeling of being ‘ultraspacially lost’ , or in need of getting to an unknown location. The condition manifests in the tendency to ask for directions, and ramble, and patient’s describe feelings of warped or stretched space, or non Euclidean geometries, the perception of vast extra spacial darknesses extending from the back of the mind, or of extra corners in the room, usually synonymous with cognitive decline and alzheimer's.
Hospitals, I absorbed the feet interiors, too much light and depressed family’s to the ill slumped in cafeterias. Students in medical outfits wandering blindly around hoping they pull off the charade, convincing the public that they know what they are doing.
When I entered the hospital room, the grey haired old man was slumped in his hospital bed, jittering like an anxious animal. His skin had spotted out in red legions from burst tendons, and he had a slightly manic appearance, otherwise he matched perfectly the description Barrington had relayed to me.
He was conscious, and rambling as I entered the room, and I was instantly called to respond and engage with his semi psychotic state, and direct his word salad rants toward the case of the missing girl.
‘Welsh the thing is, how it levitates is a mystery; it’s browner than the devil, but there you are. Them ones, the women. They all see it anyway, all these molestation charges. Pah. It’s a power game. Got to pay your dues to the Royal family. Saw it myself down in the yellow river. Have you heard of the Tavistock institute? Brain experiments in the First World War and they created the Beatles you know?’
I sat down on the red velvet chair beside Mr Dennison and began to wave my hand in front of his face; ‘Mr Dennison? Can you hear me?’ I asked. The man’s hollow blue eyes failed to focus on me, and he continued to rant;
‘Started out like a brown patch. Little footsteps. Come down...come down from— the....uh.... Like a splotch. A stain in the sky. Kind of melts the colours out of things, and makes them fade a bit. You have to see through a dead man’s eyes, but we’re all just flesh, slowly rotting. Waiting for the maggots to consume us, no? Huh?’
‘Mr Dennison?’ I continued rubbing my hand in his face.
‘What?... huh... where am I? Can’t see the way. Where is my kitchen from here?’
I noticed that Dennison’s opaque eyes had focussed on my hand, and were now following it as I moved my arm back and forth. Finally I managed to draw his vision towards me, and get him to be immersed in the actual room.
‘Mr Dennison’ I continued, ‘I’m going to show you a picture of a girl, the police believe you were in the company of, last Wednesday, out near Hoovesclap National Park.’
I held up the photographs of Chelsea Chambers. She was a stunning girl, so youthful and with an untouchable sparkle of life in her eyes. In a normal interrogation, one might have used more covert measures to trick the truth out of the suspect, but given his current state, the most obvious route seemed to be just to engage him with the subject and try to comprehend what his tangential unconscious rants would reveal. There was no way to actually have a normal conversation with him in his current condition anyway.
‘Do you recognise this girl Mr Dennison?’ I asked.
The man’s eyes widened in clear recognition, then a look of profound horror seemed to sweep over his face.
‘That’s the one. Poor girl. Poor girl’ Dennison stuttered.
‘You know this girl?’ I probed.
‘Don’t know where it’s coming from, or what it wants, but they’re here. That’s for sure. Broke through the gates of time I think, celestial terrorists. Light years from us. Brown hole of the universe.’
‘Mr Dennison, the girl?’
‘Fractals across time space. The Outer ones. Smash through to our dimension, like breaking through glass. Been lurking around us since Ancient times, our ancestors saw them too.’
Clearly I wasn’t breaking through, so I tried another start point for his unconscious; ‘Mr Dennison, do you remember being electrocuted on Friday?’
‘.....zaaaaaah.... electric! Yes. Yes. That’s what triggers it. I think there’s machines on the other side of the wall. Containment. You suppose they took the girl somewhere else entirely?’
‘Who? Mr Dennison? Who took the girl?’ I asked, seizing the thought, and trying to shift the focus of his incoherent delusions. The man’s eyes were still boggling about in a blind fog.
‘They took her. They took her. Down at Van Ghulin’s. All the brown emanating from there. The shadows. Shadows on the water. Pah! Ha. One minute there and then gone. Just like that. It’s like teeth chewing around the edge. Edge of the light. Shadows of Liamhigin Y Dwr!!!’
I sighed, cupping my head in my hands. Officer Barrington gave me a look, and I stood up to talk with him privately behind the curtain. ‘He definitely recognises her’ I explained, ‘If ....he was responsible for anything that happened to her, it’s possible the whole regressive fantasy is hinged to it, and his mind has created a fantasy scenario to deal with the guilt surrounding the issue.’ ‘So he did it?’ Barrington asked glumly. ‘I don’t think there’s any way to be sure of that. But I’m afraid to probe any further into the issue, as the centre of his delusion, any further questioning... and his mind could completely collapse on itself.’
‘Goddamn it Kearns.’ Barrington yelled, growing red with rage; ‘That girl could still be alive somewhere for all we know’. I considered the gravity of what the officer was saying.
Our conversation was interrupted then, a woman had entered the hospital corridor. I had seen her in the corner of my eye, milling around the reception desk asking some questions, now she was approaching. She was a demure woman, focussed but attractive. She was wearing a grey womens power suit with a casual t-shirt underneath. Her blonde hair was tied in a bob.
Officer Barrington seemed to recognise her immediately, removing his police hat and holding it with both hands in a respectful greeting. The woman glanced at him mistrustfully, but stopped and folded her arms, waiting impatiently for some form of acknowledgement. ‘We’ve only been here about ten minutes, Mrs Mchellny.’ Barrington professed apologetically. ‘I thought I told you.’ The woman replied. ‘My father didn’t do this. He’s not responsible, your wasting your time.’ ‘Mchellny, Dennison is your maiden name then? Miss...?’ I interjected, seeing an opportunity for inquiry.
The woman glanced at officer Barrington, then back at me, then spoke cautiously; ‘Yes. My name is Mary. Who’s this?’ ‘This is our acting psychologist profiler Mrs Mchellny’. Barrington said. ‘Simon,’ I said, introducing myself and shaking the lady’s hand, ‘Simon Kearns. Mary. If I may be so forward. There is nothing the police would like more than to drop the charges against your father, and pronounce his innocence. Surely, you can empathise that, right now, there is a seventeen year old girl missing, and your father is the only suspect in that investigation. If you can just answer some questions, perhaps we can get some proof to show your father’s innocence. A short interview, could you manage it?’ Mary sighed, then after a brief interval yielded; ‘Give me twenty minutes with my father and I’m all yours.’ The woman brushed aside the curtain and entered the ward. Barrington gave me a queer look. I waited for Mary Mchellny to be completely out of earshot. ‘He didn’t do it’ I said, strongly.
‘What?’ Barrington exclaimed, puzzled.
‘In all my years of profiling violent sex offenders and the families of social deviants, in spite of a psychopaths ability to conceal their inner nature, and given that over eighty percent of these kinds of crimes happen within the family, I have never once come across a case where the female family members didn’t have some inclination of the offenders nature. She’s not defending her father because she wants to cover up the truth, her inflection clearly displays a woman who’s known her father for decades and has true insight into his character. Whilst I understand this is all just hearsay, my inclination tells me that if you let me interview the daughter I can get you some piece of tangible proof that this is the wrong avenue of investigation.’
‘Alright Kearns. But you better come up with something because time is of the essence here.’
With my request validated, I felt assured of my instincts. Barrington slipped out for some strong black espresso before bartering with his superiors, and before long I was in a makeshift interview space, preparing for the interview with Mary Dennison/Mchellny.
I pulled up my social media search portals with Bourkeley University, where I received my degree, and began to do my research on Mrs Mchellny.
She was an interesting figure herself, a well know figure in local politics, working for the Green Action party. She advocated social changes in regards to climate awareness, reduced logging and construction. I thought I might have found something when I discovered that in 2014 she ran a platform against the council who were trying to change the borders of Hoovesclap National Park, particularly the territory around Van Ghulin’s river. Developers had plans to bulldose the area and create a family friendly marina, and Mary’s party had led affirmative action against the development, and blocked the motion. But after a very long time considering the event, I couldn’t see how it could possibly play into the matter at hand any more than a mere coincidence.
As I sat contemplating the glare of the computer screen, I started to develop a migraine. Then, as I strained my forehead, I felt the strangest sensation, an odd dizziness, coupled with a sort of sepia filter to the desk around me. Like looking at the world through coffee, my sight began to blur and fold in on itself. I put the computer aside and closed my eyes to rest for a moment.
It wasn’t long however, that I was interrupted at the door by Mary Mchellny. I rode out the headache, and pointed to the chair. After Mary sat, I made sure to direct the conversation straight to the bare bone facts, making sure the gravitas of the situation was at the forefront.
‘Ms Mchellny, your father was seen driving Chelsea Chambers, (a seventeen year old girl who is subsequently missing), by witnesses at the Proud Bull Petrol Station. The police have confirmed that the vehicle, a red Mini-moke is indeed the property of your father, which gives pretty strong evidence that this girl was in your father’s car at the time of the witness statements. These are pretty serious allegations.’
‘My Dad is a harmless old man, who only does nice things for people,’ Mary replied earnestly, ‘I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for all of it.’ I fiddled with the silver handle on my cane. ‘Mary. I want to believe you. But, right now, it doesn’t look good. The police need something to prove your father’s innocence if they are going to change their pursuit. I have to admit I sense some anxiety now when you talk about your father. Are you sure he couldn’t have done this?’ ‘No!’ Mary said passionately, ‘I’m anxious.....I’m anxious— because Dad and I had a fight the last time I saw him. We weren’t on the best of terms, and now I’m worried I might never get to speak to him again. Not in any normal sense, well... you know what I mean.’ Tears had begun to well up in Mary’s eyes.
‘There’s a possibility that the fog delusion could be a temporary effect of the accident could clear up in a manner of weeks or months. There’s no guarantees I’m afraid. What were you and your father fighting about, do you mind if I ask?’
She wiped her eye and tilted her head in a gesture of trust; (sigh) ‘Mums ashes, it’s the most ridiculous thing, when you think about it. Mum died twenty years ago, but her ashes have been sitting on top of the fridge, because Dad was too stubborn to make a decision on where to put them. Now I feel horrible for fighting with him about it, but the whole thing, it’s just been like something out of Edgar Allen Poe, you know? If something does happen at least they can finally rest together in the same plot.’ ‘These things can be difficult’ I said, ‘If it’s any consolidation, you may not have a good two way conversation, but the science shows that your father will absorb about ninety percent of what’s said. You can still tell him how you feel.’ ‘You know’ said Mary lightening up, ‘That actually does help. Look, Dr....’ ‘...Kearns’ ‘Doctor Kearns, father definitely didn’t do this, but he was acting strange lately. Something was troubling him. It just occurred to me that Dad kept a kind of journal, he wrote his thoughts on his computer every night. I bet there’s something in there which can prove his innocence.’ ‘Mary’ I said, clicking my finger, ‘You need to get me those notes.’
I allowed Ms Mchellny to leave, in the mean time, going out of my professional jurisdiction, I found myself unnaturally compelled to go and investigate the trail at Van Ghulin’s river.
So, this is precisely the point where I began to transcribe my story. I had driven down to the old park on Rathbone Street. The foliage of ancient trees swayed in the breeze, and fruit bats and flying foxes dropped their nuts and feaces all around me. Long brown grasses blew in the cold breeze.
Shortly I came to the ominous entrance to that old, dark pathway, the cross hatching of malevolent branches seeming to send a foreboding warning— not to enter.
Nonetheless, enter I did, and as I had previously divulged, that surprising rustling had sent me into a panicked chill. But as the thing jumped out, I have perhaps misguided you, for the creature was not the object of my latter spiritual agony. It was merely a large deer which leapt out from behind the black boy, it’s immense stag antlers presented to me like the logo of the sinister corporation of nature itself.
It looked me in the eyes with reciprocal fear, then dashed off into the bushes in the other direction.
Needless to say, the deer had caused such shock, that it had unearthed a primal and unparalleled dread, as my heart burst from my chest in Celtic palpitations. This perhaps had added to the later anxiety of my discoveries, and subsequent hallucinations.
As I walked down the dark path towards the water, absolute terror filled my soul, and my vision became a dizzying blur. I began to second guess my self, and question what the fuck I was doing taking on the police’s job, when I wasn’t even being paid. Ripples on the water, concentric circles, rippling mathematical patterns.
Some undefinable shape took root in my psyche, and the details of the roots and trees, and ecosystem of insects and croaking toads seemed to take on another aspect. I felt as though I was being drawn into a living, breathing mouth of some ill defined evil.
When I touched the water, the matter only further cemented its demented aspect. The yellow river ran into a kind of lagoon, surrounded by gnarled brushes and mangrove stalks, and the thick mud carpeted all, climbing up my legs. But it was the formation of stones which began to eclipse all possibility of serenity. They were igneous rocks of all variation in size, some jagged, some sculpture like, and a few resembling dark grey menhirs.
There was a definite logic to the pattern, and their placement was in no way natural. They seemed to suggest a web of angled beams, all purposed towards a central point. As I moved, and contemplated the stones with pickled terror, the gradients and patchwork tones of the background and foreground seemed to intermingle with common lines and shapes, forming a tapestry of unnatural gateways. Then as I waded through the yellow water, a terrifying illusion came over me, as though I was staring through the rational 3D spaces of our world, almost staring between the stones, and into an extra spacial cavity stretching into an unseen oblivion.
For a moment, I couldn’t tell what I was looking at. Only that it satisfied the archetype of a staircase, and yet resembled an upside down volcano of light. From which, physical matter merged into a kind of dense brownness. The tunnel of abysmal anti-colour seemed to flicker and move. Then, from within, a shadow of the most abysmal thing I had ever seen fell down over all, as though the trick of light, had collapsed under the weight of deep space. Suddenly, I could no longer look at the thing, because writhing invisible worms inserted themselves into the orifices of reality. My stomach turned, and the wall that separated me from the brown abyss disintegrated. Living things now attempted to crawl out of the space, and I found myself hypnotised by the otherness so that I almost couldn’t move. Finally, I managed to tear myself free from the spell, and began to slosh through the mud, racing back to the shore, but as I stumbled, the muddy water sunk, as though sinkholes were forming all around me, and beneath the deluge, I began to see terrible things. Inhuman footprints, and collections of chewed bones, human skulls and darkened cadavers coated in dry blood.
I leapt to the shore, pulling myself from the quick sand, by a dangling branch. A horrid cacophony of sound rang in my ears, shrieking faerie noises.
As soon as my feet hit dry ground my legs took flight, darting without hesitation back up the path to the park, never looking back on the hideous sticky portal to strange new depths of the unknown.
That night, back in the luxury of my own home, I had almost blotted the terrible thing from my mind.
I received an email from Mary Mchellny addressed ‘urgent’, it said quite simply that she had found evidence that her father was innocent, with an attachment showing a diary entry dated Thursday the 15th August. The day after Chelsea Chambers disappeared. I read the excerpt from the journal entry, which went as follows;
‘... was driving out to get some milk, and I’ve seen this young girl on the side of the road with her thumb out. Couldn’t be more’n just out of high school I reckoned. Wandering what her parents were doing letting the girl out alone, I’d be a monster if I didn’t at least stop and give her a lift, before she got taken in by some other untoward. Didn’t her family ever tell her it’s dangerous to hitch hike? Well, she was a good girl, reminded me a little of my Mary when she was younger. At that stage of going to parties and raves, it’s a terrible time for a father. Well... she said she wanted to buy some cigarettes, and i discouraged her, but by god she was going to get them one way or another. I took her to the petroleum station, then she said she wanted to be driven to Sherwood avenue, that’s where the party was, apparently. I dropped her, but I sure hope she was safe enough. Seen a lot of bad things out here lately, shadows and such. Not a safe place for kids, or anyone no more. I’ve seen the autumn colour of that deathly thing...’
The note did seem to clear Dennison’s name, and also had a potential clue to assist the police, (the alleged party on Sherwood avenue). I emailed it to Barrington immediately, and replied to Mary saying that this would help clear her family name. But something was plaguing me now, and I had to ask her to send me the rest of the diary.
The diary entry seemed to suggest that the murders at Van Ghulin’s river weren’t related to the Chambers mystery at all. But then, what about the corpses and bones I’d seen in the mud down there? Was that just a terrible dream?
I paced around my study, consumed by doubts.
I couldn’t help but feel that that awful shape id seen down at the swamp, had somehow followed me home, and was now loitering above the roof and beyond the walls of my house, breathing heavily with its outsiderness. That strange, almond smelling colour seemed to penetrate every pore of the space, running like chemicals through biological cells. Taunting me with its darkness.
About an hour later, I received the email from Mary with the rest of her father’s diary attached. I immediately began to paw through the insane account. It read as follows;
‘6th August. As I’ve been in the habit of looking for fishing spots, I made the dire mistake of checking out the old trail in Hoovesclap National Park. Now why Mary and her liberal social justice warriors wanted to save that dismal swamp, I’ll never understand. It’s an abhorrent garbage tip. I could scarce get down to the river just by virtue of that horrid smell. I can’t confide my feelings, but that something happened down at that river. It’s the strangest thing, but since I went down there I can’t help but feel I’ve never quite been alone. It was the strangest feeling, those eerie rocks, someone put them there like that, and there’s a smell, and a feeling that comes over you—- just doesn’t feel right. Now I’ve been having trouble sleeping and I can’t get the thing quite from my mind.’
‘9th August. See now, I’ve had what the young folk are calling a ‘lucid dream’. That’s where one wakes from this experience, like from sleep, but for all intents and purposes the experience is so lifelike there is a sense that one was there. What it was, like a time warp, years ago to memories I’d long forgotten. I was in the halls of my high school, being followed by a kind of auburn ghost. I was kind of levitating through my memories, but behind it all, there seemed to be this unnatural colour or sound which united all these colourful experiences, and the paint of the dream mixed together, shapes, corners, appendages. I started to see this entity come into view, so familiar and yet so terrible.
‘12th August. So much has happened, but I haven’t had the time to record it all. Ive been doing research about this thing. I’ve been hearing these phrases whispered in my ear as I sit, and I realised the phrases were a Welsh dialect. Now I borrowed some old Celtic books, and I was rifling through them, and I saw the thing. Just like the creature from my dream. A kind of giant body, like a frog, with no hind legs, and immense bats wings upon its shoulders. This kind of lizard tail, with a stinger on it, that patchy reptilian skin, and evil beady eyes. Now I know, that’s the thing what I saw there coming through the stones in that old yellow river. The shadows coming down over me, now I see, they are his shadows. Liamhigin Y Dwr!
“15th August See. There are these other worlds, and they are all from the future. My theory is that there’s some electric forcefield. Because I’ve been noticing that this vibration. The fuzz in my TV is louder, and when I walk underneath electric poles my hair stands on end. There’s an electric framework acting as the gate to this ether world, and it seems to be growing in strength. I have these fears, like if I don’t find some way to close the gate, that frog bat and all his faerie minions could break loose upon the world. Then, I worry about the gravity of that place, and it’s effect on the young folk. I turn all the power off at night, to keep that world at bay. But I need to drink a lot of tea to stay relaxed. Well, that’s what drew me out there, I was driving out to get some milk, and I’ve seen this young girl on the side of the road with her thumb out. Couldn’t be more’n just out of high school I reckoned. Wandering what her parents were doing letting the girl out alone, I’d be a monster if I didn’t at least stop and give her a lift...’
I never knew what exactly to take from Dennison’s strange journal.
That was the last I saw of he and Mary. All charges were dropped against the Dennisons. The Chambers case was found to be completely separate to the murders in Hoovesclap National Park.
Unfortunately, it was not the end of that strange feeling, and that weirdness which seemed to follow me everywhere. A few months later, the case of Chelsea Chambers would resurface in new and dreadful ways, but that story is probably better left for another time.
I wonder what Dennison meant by other worlds? And how he connected such places to electricity? And all this before his curious accident, and onset of the fog delusion.
The human mind is a fantastically strange thing, and our inner worlds are mirrored by peculiarities in the world and the vast cosmos that our species may never come to understand. In our feeble weakness all we may hope for amidst the surrounding infinite darkness, and intelligences that far eclipse our own is to care for and love each other in our own small way.
But sometimes those eclipsing shadows, who’s details emerge in the vending machines at hospitals, and the dark sludge of the wilderness, and indeed the grey clouds above, and that ancient predatory fear sometime comes to me, of an otherness so terrible it drains the soul of all joy and completeness.
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