Part Five – Burgundy Blooded

BACK

“I never thought i’d be back here.” Kolt remarked to Theo as he watched the clones dig through the wreckage of the craft with shovels and crowbars, pulling apart mutilated pieces of metal. {A}

“I may have an idea why…” Theo mused as he glanced at the dead, worm-like creature next to them, torn to bits by thirty-two caliber bullets from the large handguns the clones next to the two held, still smoking.

Kolt’s poncho whipped to his side as the wind picked up. “We should get back to the city soon, we don’t wanna get stuck in a sandstorm, especially with that big ol’ eye of yours.”

“Don’t patronize me.” Theo growled as a clone shambled up the dune, silently showing them a large black box.

“This is all we could find.” The clone droned, and Theo took the box from it. “Everything else has been turned to scrap metal, or is missing.”

“Well, this is all we needed.” Theo sighed, turning to Kolt, “Let’s pack up here and get to the city, we can’t leave with a sandstorm coming.”

“I’m not complaining, but is it ok if I take a detour? I need to see someone first.” Kolt asked, pointing to one of the hovering, car-like vehicles.

Theo shrugged, admitting, “Well, it’s gonna be a while before it hits, so just make sure to get back before that, alright?”

“I will.” Kolt nodded, turning and walking up to one of the speeders, leaping over the door and landing in the driver’s seat. The keys were already in, so he simply turned on the vehicle and felt it float up from the ground, turning the steering wheel and pressing down the pedal with his foot. It lurched forward, picking up speed as it traveled down dune after dune, and losing said speed as soon as it had to travel up even the smallest hill. This was gonna take a while.

He hovered on top of a dune, looking down at the tiny hut covered by its shadow. Stepping down from the craft, he slowly descended the steep angle, holding onto his poncho as rogue winds buzzed in the distance, a sign of the coming dust storm edging closer and closer. Walking around the hut, he leaned in through one of the windows and looked around the cramped inside of the hut. He could still see the outline of sand on the table where his helmet had sat. Leaving the hut, he grunted as he climbed back up the dune, to his waiting hovercraft. It was a Privateer-licensed copy of the generic small single-seated ones that you would commonly see on dusty worlds like this one, but the normal green or red paint was replaced with a reflective black coating. Slipping his boots back into the stirrups and leaning forward, Kolt squeezed the handlebars tightly and jerked them to the left, the hovercraft turning that way, before he pushed them forward. It leaned forward slightly it sped over the tops of the shorter dunes, slowing down when it had to climb the larger ones. {A}

Every once and awhile, a dust devil would pop up, whipping him in the face before dissipating, and one such occasion caused Kolt to get a mouthful of sand. Sputtering, he spat the granules into the wind as he flew, wiping off his mouth with the cuff of his glove. For a second he feared that he would hear his own voice floating next to him, cursing him out, chastising him. For now, it had stayed in the back of his head, in his ‘happy place’, but the stress was starting to get to him, and his forehead throbbed with pain. Maybe if he was lucky enough, he could maybe dump his pill bottle of Aspirin into his mouth as he drove, but he decided to stop to take a few pills. Dumping at least a quarter of the contents of the bottle into his hand, he closed his metallic fist around the tiny white circles, crushing them into powder. Cupping his hand so the winds couldn’t sweep it away, he poured the dust-like medicine into his mouth, gagging at the taste. He hated taking pills of any sort, so the powder way was much easier on him. Screwing the orange lid back onto the bottle, he slipped it back into one of the pouches on his belt, and the sand started to churn around him.

“I fucking hate this planet.” He sighed as he undid the buckle on his holster.

As the flailing creature leaped from the sand, hissing and chittering, Kolt pulled a gigantic handgun from the large holster he had strapped to his thigh. Rotating the bolt and pulling it back, he let it slam forward, the prongs that carried the cartridges back slamming it into the chamber as the bolt locked back into place. The sandworm hissed, and Kolt switched the handgun to his prosthetic hand, and pointed it at the giant creature. He felt the motors in his wrist lock into place as he fired the handgun, keeping it from shattering due to the insane recoil. {A} The worm chittered as it slipped back into the sand, leaving a trail of bright crimson, along with a few spatters all over the sand around Kolt. Decocking the hammer with his other thumb (the distance between the grip and hammer was insane), Kolt reholstered the giant pistol, his new Gabbet-Fairfax Mars, and leaned forward, zooming off.

 

The nameless city-state wasn’t very big, but it was just like Kolt remembered it; invisible until you hit the edge, and a complete labyrinth. The entire city seemed to have caved in at the middle, but Kolt had learnt why recently; there was a giant sand pit there, and a large vein of gold was between those particles. That’s how the city apparently stayed profitable on the giant desert of a planet Centim was. Most of the inhabitants, the Centimites, were crows, denizens from one of the many colonization projects funded by private organizations, and sometimes the GSS. Apparently, whoever was funding the colony here was either liquidated, or didn’t care enough to send supplies to the needy colonists. Near the northern edge of the crater, was a very obelisk like castle, made of a mixture of gold and the familiar sandstone that kept it in the style of all the other buildings. Surrounding it was a tall wall made entirely of stone, and from where Kolt stood on the opposite edge of the crater, he could see only four windows on the front side of the estate. That’s where the rumored ruler of this place lived, and Kolt was tasked with having a chat with him. But something made Kolt feel like that wasn’t going to happen.

The clones stood around the sealed double-doors, arms crossed, watching Kolt with their steely gazes, waiting for instructions. These clones were relatively well- built compared to the majority, with large chests and visibly larger muscles, coupled with matte silver plates of armor over their chests and groins, wrapped around them with straps. Instead of hooded t-shirts and shorts, they wore full-body suits; the clone equivalent of the Privateer muscle-enhancing suit, functionally equivalent but less comfortable, not that the clones complained any that is. Kolt knew who they were: Cuirassiers, the best of the best, and the most expensive to hire-and-or buy. Unlike most clones, if you looked on the scalp of most of them, under their black hair, you would see a large, slash-shaped scar; they had been lobotomized similar to the Menials, to not feel love, compassion, or caring. The perfect soldier. As a side-effect, they needed a leader, as they can’t think for themselves in any fashion. On their upper right arms, they wore black armbands that barely managed to distinguish themselves from the body suits they wore. There was no emblem on it; the Privateers had none. If they were owned by the GSS, they would have green armbands with ‘GSS’ written on, but their shoulders were bare. They guarded the doors, making sure that no one would leave from the compound. Come to think of it, Kolt wondered if the clone sent to kill him was a Cuirassier in a normal clone’s uniform, judging by its lack of reaction to getting de-limbed. 

Turns out, the Privateers have uncovered evidence that the ruler of the town has some connections to some sort of, I dunno, terrorist organizations? Bad guys? They never told the footsoldiers anything, but whatever it was, the man had also kidnapped approximately 80 members of a reptilian offshoot species, known locally as Kobolds. The only thing Kolt was advised is that he was wanted for questioning, which usually means ‘applying a damp towel and a bucket of water to the facial region’, so no killing him.

Even though Kolt was technically not a Privateer anymore, he still wore his get-up from earlier, the same outfit that he wore on the ‘expedition’ to Flagdyn, the forest planet with the same puffy olive-green vest generously supplied by the GSS zipped over it. Comfy, too. It held in heat well, not a very good thing in the hot desert but Kolt ignored that, and the pockets on either side were quite spacious. Hands in said pockets, Kolt had a brown poncho pulled over it mainly for the cool factor, and also because it shaded his body and stopped the vest from heating up. Almost everyone would just take off the vest, but Kolt Saudwell is not almost everyone. He’s cool.

Well he’s not due to the vest making him sweat a little but you get the point.

Another clone leaned against the wall, his hood pulled back revealing curly, kinda messy short black hair covering his ears. Most clones had this hairstyle, but it was rare to see a clone with no hood on. This one was one of the lesser clones, any one that wasn’t a Cuirassier from the factory wearing the normal ‘t-shirt and shorts’ combo that is quite popular with Privateers and clones alike, although the ‘shorts’ were long sleeve pants rolled into cuffs, and the ‘t-shirt’ was the same, a long sleeve shirt rolled up above the elbows; the same outfit Kolt wore almost all the time. He stared at a pad in his hands, tapping at it with his thumbs, widened eyes darting all over it. Over the front of his shirt, along with the top of his hood, was a dark green stripe, signifying an allegiance to the GSS; with the lesser clones, the ones that had distinguished themselves were usually rewarded with these striped uniforms, the stripes being colored depending on the signature color of their employers. This tipped Kolt off that this wasn’t just a problem for the Privateers.

Suddenly, behind him someone began to monologue, spooking Kolt. “Clones eat, drink, defecate, urinate, and talk just like everyone else does, the difference is that their brains can be programmed with undying loyalty to whoever types their names in first.” Theo walked up to Kolt’s side, wiping sweat and sand off of his brow and pulling at the zipped-up collar of his suit as he stood next to the much-taller alien. “They are more trustworthy than ninety-nine percent of the people in the universe, minus combat androids.”

“Why combat androids?” Kolt asked, still looking over the three clones guarding the entrance.

“Well, combat androids are just a torso and a brain from a deceased clone, stuffed into a big metal skeleton and stripped of its emotions and free thought. And they can be hacked MUCH easier than a normal clone. I’m surprised you don’t know much about clones, Kolt.”

“Yeah, well, in seven years of service I really haven’t had to deal with them, nonetheless look closely at them.”

Theo nodded, and glanced over at the clones. “I wonder, how it would be like to have your mind influenced just by the press of a button, like those ones on Cerberus. They were simply doing their job, but what if their job is reversed? They can’t argue with orders, or even comprehend that they’re bad, unless they’re the few who’ve been unlocked. The thought of doing things unconsciously is quite horrifying to me.”

“Yeah, I guessed that by the long monologue. What are we doing here?”

“Waiting, I guess.”

“For what?”

“For them to open the doors? I honestly have no idea.”

Kolt shook his head. “Well, I hate waiting. All we gotta do is find the person in charge, beat the shit out of them, and drag them back to Home, right?”

“That is correct, yes.”

Kolt glanced over at a parked speeder next to a few blocks of sandstone in front of an unfinished house, along with a pile of planks. “Well, you just gotta think outside the sandbox.”

 

After they finished erecting their ramp, Kolt and Theo both clambered onto the speeder, which was the same type as the one he drove earlier, just a navy blue color. Leaning forward and twisting the handles, it shot up the ramp. It was only a few feet away from the top of the wall when it started to fall, albeit slowly due to it being a hovercraft and all, and Kolt got another idea.

“Get ready, to leap!” He ordered Theo, and he pulled his feet out of the spurs. The Marbelian clambered onto the back of the long seat of the speeder, and Kolt loudly counted down. “On the count of three. Three!” They both leaped, hands clamping onto the top of the wall. Kolt pulled himself over first, and almost fell down the other side. He felt a sharp tug on his neck, complete with the loss of the ability to breath, and he realized he had amazingly managed to lynch himself on a flagpole. Good job. Reaching behind him, he pulled on the strings that kept the poncho tight around his neck, and fell to the sand, gasping for air. Theo landed next to him, much more gracefully, and helped him up. The courtyard was completely empty of both guards and decoration, and Theo ran up to the closed gate behind them, drawing his handgun, a Beretta M1951, a handgun ugly in every way, the complete opposite to Theo’s genuinely adorable looks.

“Blast,” He cursed, “Electronically locked, presumably from inside the compound itself.”

“I’ll go find the switch,” Kolt said, drawing his Manurhin PP from under his shirt, flipping open one of the larger pouches on his belt. “You stay here and defend the door.”

“Are you daft? We have no idea what’s in there!”

“I do.”

“What, then?”

“A bunch of soon-to-be-dead crows.” Kolt pulled a long, black suppressor from the pouch, where it had been snugly placed next to three extra magazines for the PP. Slipping it over the end of the extruding barrel, he swiped it with his hand a few times, threading it in, before giving it a reassuring twist. The suppressor was almost as long as the pistol itself! Kolt looked up and down the large stone structure in front of him; the only entrance he could see on this side was a large ornate door. Going in through the front was both suicidal and extremely stupid, which means it was Kolt’s normal entrance in a situation like this, but he wasn’t wearing any body armor. He peeked around the left side of the building, at the left alleyway. Down near the edge of the wall, connected to the building, was a useless-looking grate, whatever purpose it served unknown. Another grate sat below it, presumably for drainage of some sort. Huh, Kolt thought, how convenient!

“You don’t have to kill them, Kolt!” Theo practically screamed. “They’re just guards!” But he was already gone.

Theo shook his head. “The fool…” He sighed, and looked at the locked doors, his eye drifting up to a guard tower built into the wall. A few cracks in the wall looked large enough to grab on to. Theo looked back down at the grate. The absolute fool.

 

Clambering through the pitch-black tunnel, Kolt banged his head against a wall and turned. His knees scraped against the gritty floor, and the smell of feces filled his nostrils. NOW he knew what the reason for the grates was. “I just hope I don’t get my face shit on again. That’d be the second time this week.” He grumbled as he crawled through the ever-tightening tunnel. After a few minutes of blind scrambling, his head pressed against another wall, and he turned again. Far in the distance, was a few slits of light in the darkness. Another grate. “Hell, this better not lead to the private toilet.”

Pressing an eye up to the grate, he couldn’t see anything due to the intense light beaming through, but he did hear something. Splashing, and women laughing, a few sobs between each. He heard a particularly loud splash, and felt water trickle out from the bottom of the grate, running over his fingers. “No,” He whispered, “Not the private toilet, but the private bathhouse.” He hoped that his glinting eyes didn’t catch anyone inside’s attention, but judging by how bright it was, he doubted it would matter anyways. Sticking his fingers into the holes (lewd) in each corner, he popped out the studs (lewder) that held the grate in place, before pushing it forward slightly (not as lewd). It swung downwards, but Kolt stopped it from completely swinging out and popped the top of his head out the top. After his eyes adjusted, he gave a few quick glances around the bathhouse before pulling his head back in and closing the grate again.

Five short, scaly, lizard-like women, all naked, sat on the other side of the pool, separated by a short wall. Kobolds, judging by their overall appearance, creatures of legend that, surprisingly, turned out to be real. I’m just kidding, they weren’t REALLY kobolds, just an alien species that looked similar to most lizards, but everyone called them that. Behind them was the door out of the room. Sunlight beamed down from the large square-shaped hole in the ceiling, stabbing through the water and illuminating the bottom, which was quite far down. Kolt peeked his head out again, making sure the Kobold’s weren’t watching him, before pushing the grate out of the way and slipping into the water. It was surprisingly warm, probably due to the direct sunlight (and hopefully not pee), and Kolt managed to push up the grate before he immediately started to sink due to the weight of his belt. {A}

He had sucked in some air before he went under, and the feeling of the water seeping through the creases in his clothing calmed him. Dragging his feet through the water gave him some time to think, and he thought of the situation he was in. After completing this last mission, he would go back to Home, and find out why someone was sent to kill him, a clone nonetheless. After that, he didn’t know what would happen. Only then did he notice the chittering in the back of his mind, and the growing migraine he had due to it. Ignoring it, he unlocked his belt, and he felt his feet pick up off the ground as the air in his lungs started to lift him towards the surface.

Kolt hurled his heavy belt onto the ground surrounding the pool as the kobold concubines watched in silence, their heads cocked and not a single blink between the five. As Kolt managed to loop his belt once more, one of the kobold’s managed to stand up, pulling their legs from the water, and walk up to Kolt as he dried himself with a towel.

“A-Are you here to save us?” The small lizard-person sniffed in perfect German.

“Well,” Kolt retorted as he finished wiping off his gun, throwing the towel to the side, “Do you need saving?”

“Yes please! This man, this, ‘Goldbeak’, he pulled us from our homes, burnt our village. There’s not much of us left. He treats me and the other girls like cheap whores! Lets his men ravage us, like the animals they are.” The kobold that was sobbing earlier let out a loud wail, and buried her face in the scaly chest of another, who just patted her head caringly as she stared at Kolt. Kolt was quite trifled by all exposed naughty bits around him, but kept his cool.

“We’re all animals, but consider yourself saved; i’m a mercenary hired to arrest Goldbeak for your kidnapping. The name’s Kolt Saudwell. Where do I have to go to get to this Goldbeak fellow you speak oh-so-highly of?”

The kobold pointed to the set of stone doors in front of Kolt. “Take a right, and follow the hallway to the end. There should be a door there leading to the main hall, but that wouldn’t be smart to go through. Goldbeak has guards constantly patrolling that hallway, and the door is locked. The only way you might be able to get to him is through the heavy doors to the main hall, in the courtyard.”

“Thanks for the tip lady, you all should stay here and wait for help.” Kolt gave the kobold a thumbs up, before slinking up to the door, suppressed pistol in hand. He hoped that the thirty-two caliber pistol would be quieter than a mouse with the giant suppressor, and it was time to see if that was true. It was no PPK, and he was no James Bond, but they were the next closest thing. As he crept down the hall, he would freeze up whenever he heard any sort of noise other than his frantic breathing and the crunch of rock under his feet, and this continued until he finished scouring the general area. Better start checking the few doors i’ve found, he thought to himself as he silently pushed the door in front of him open.

“I’m telling you Ronald, it tastes spoiled!”

“Manny, the only thing spoiled is your temper! Take another sip.” Kolt watched as one of the crows, adorned in ornamental body armor with an apron draped over it, pulled the ladle out of a giant cast iron pot that had something steaming inside of it, and dipped their beak into it. He smelt broth, and the air was slightly cloudy as steam wafted from multiple pots and pans.

“Nope, still tastes like shit.” It gruffly replied as it wiped off the end of its beak with a handkerchief.

“Fuck you, I worked hard on it!” The other one cawed. This one was wearing one of those silly chef hats, the tall white ones. They had something to do with eggs. Both the crows were big, surly fellows, which added to the humour in the fact that they were bickering over cooking. They looked like they had just came from the gym that they had half-used decade long memberships in. “Fine, why don’t you taste my cooked celery!”

“…you can’t cook celery, Ronald.”

“Yes, you can!”

The bickering between the two crows continued as they walked to the other side of the kitchen, and Kolt sneaked in, hiding behind a large slab of marble that served as a nexus for the ingredients, which laid across the top of it in heaping quantities. “Here, try some.”

Crunch!

“It tastes like celery, and now I fear i’ve lost my hearing.”

“Well, what would it taste like? Also, cooking it made it extra crunchy. And loud.”

“Oh, I didn’t lose my hearing. Bummer. You still can’t cook.”

“At least I don’t chastise others for their subpar skills!” Kolt was stifling a laugh at this point, and he heard the shuffle of boots as they shifted back over to the soup, and curiousity got the best of him. As they argued over what would be better in the soup with their backs to him, Kolt simply stood up, waltzed over to bowl of celery, and grabbed a stalk and pulling open the small storage compartment on his robotic forearm, stuffing it inside. Hey, this job works up an appetite! As the crows made their way back over to the celery, Kolt scuttled around the other side of the marble block, to the bowl of steaming soup. It was literally just tomato soup with a few greens sprinkled in. It’s almost impossible to fuck THAT up. Quietly pulling the ladle out, Kolt’s thin tongue darted out, wrapping into a small bowl shape and scooping some of it up and pulling it into his mouth. It tasted like tomato soup, yet, it didn’t look like it.

“It tastes fine.” He announced.

“YES! Finally, someone appreciates my co-” When the two crows turned around, Kolt was gone, the door left cracked open. “Well, whoever he was, he liked my soup, so that instantly makes them better than you.”

“…still tastes like shit.”

OH, FUCK YOU, MANNY!

Re-activating serious mode, Kolt slowly walked through the corridor, spinning around corners. Around one was the back of a guard, holding some sort of obscured rifle. Two thirty-two caliber bullets made their way through his cranium, spattering brain matter over the top of his beak, and they sank to the floor. Kolt pulled the guard’s rifle out from underneath them, and identified it. A Sterling carbine with the barrel shroud completely encapsulating the barrel, emblazoned with golden inlaid engravings. Legal and very flashy.{A} Kolt pulled a few extra magazines from a well-hidden magazine carrier in the golden breastplate the crow wore, and pocketed them. Wielding the rifle underneath his other arm, he walked over the body of the guard, and continued to stalk the halls. This place was like a labyrinth.

Another guard walked past Kolt, and he popped him in the side of the head with his handgun, dropping him instantly. Going down the hallway the guard came from, he came across an out-of-place iron door. Pushing it open proved fruitless, Kolt actually pressing his shoulder up to the door a few times and straining heavily and a few tries later he had given up. He turned away to continue sneaking about when the barrel of the Sterling caught on the large metal handle and, miraculously, the door pulled open slightly. Kolt had forgotten that some doors need to be pulled, not pushed. Grabbing the handle and pulling the door, Kolt was content with himself, until he saw what was on the other side.

{A}

The guard, beak agape, stood there, staring at Kolt confused, before glancing at his outfit and realizing who he was. Dropping his guns, Kolt pushed the rising barrel of the guard’s Sterling down as he threw his fist into their beak, knocking them both down. The guard kicked Kolt in the crotch, and Kolt wheezed in pain before falling to the side, allowing the guard to scramble to his feet, point his Sterling at Kolt and pull the trigger. But nothing happened, as the safety was on, Kolt having noticed that when they both fell to the floor. These guys were hired more for their imposing looks than their experience.

While the crow was pulling the bolt back and fiddling with the safety, thinking it was a double feed or related malfunction, Kolt managed to leap to his feet and bring his right foot up into the air, roundhouse-kicking the crow directly on the tip of their beak. Grabbing the stunned crow by their shoulders, Kolt glanced at the area around him. Metal bars, different colored walls, damp cells, must be a prison. Throwing the guard into the bars of one of the cells, he picked them up by the straps of their armor, and kicked the back of their head. Their beak wedged firmly between, scraping off some keratin on either side, and Kolt imagined them flailing and attempting to pull their head out once their stunned state wore off, which was going to be soon, as they already started to pull themselves free. Instead, he kicked them again in the back of the head again, crushing their skull against the iron bars and splattering their body with a mixture of their blood, skull fragments, and grey lumps of brain, stopping their struggling insantly. Kolt scraped the brain off of his boots on the floor before leaning forward and looking into the dim cell.

The viscera-splattered kobold who had been sitting in the corner of the cell simply glanced up at Kolt and gave him a dual thumbs up, before scrambling to the corpse and pulling the keys off its belt. As they door swung open and the short lizard came into the light, Kolt identified this one as a male, and a roughed-up one as that; it had many small nicks and bruises across the scale-less parts of its body, and wore what seemed to be a brown down-scaled version of what the crow guards wore. After picking up the guard’s Sterling, it looked back up at Kolt, giving him a grin comprised of many sharp teeth, yipping, “Yark!”

“Uh, yeah, yark. Can you understand me?” The kobold yarked again, and Kolt let out a sigh of relief. “Look, there’s a bath house near here. Inside are a few female kobolds. There should be an unlocked grate at the end of the room. Lead them out there, to the outside of the building. There should be a short blue man waiting for you.”

“Yark!”

“Good, glad that you understood all of that.”

 

As the weird, tall bug man left, Helmin cautiously took a step outside of the cell block. The rock floor, covered in pebbles, irritated the callused soles of his feet. Holding the Sterling incorrectly by the magazine (he had some vague knowledge of how guns worked), he patrolled the halls, having no idea where to go. Finally, he made it to a door that was seemingly emanating heat, and pulled it open, instantly closing his eyes when he saw exposed fleshy bits and other naughty parts, putting a claw over his face.

“Excuse me, ladies.” He stammered, and the kobold concubines, sitting around waiting for Kolt’s possible return, greeted the former chief guard with naked hugs, and he started to blush heavily.

“Where are the others?” One asked.

“I thought you would’ve known. I was thrown into an empty prison block, they took my clothes, too.” Helmin realized that comment was in poor taste as the women had their clothes taken too, and nothing was given in return. He at least had some stiff child-sized armor.

“They must be keeping them somewhere else, deeper in the castle then! Helmin, you must save them!”

Helmin unsafely scratched his chin with the barrel of the carbine. “Well,” He yipped, “I’ve got no idea where to go. I was told, I think, to leave through something here, I didn’t fully understand.”

The smallest, youngest concubine waddled up to him, asking, “By whom?”

“Some tall alien, black skin, orange reflective eyes.”

“Oh, that person came here earlier! They’re here to save us! They’re going after Goldbeak, that dastardly crow who imprisoned us in the first place.”

“Then I should too.” Helmin announced, turning back to the door to leave, but the eldest female placed her hand on his shoulder plate.

“I have a feeling that won’t be needed. Besides, we need you to find the rest. They must be somewhere deep in the castle. There should be a staircase near here somewhere, leading down, I saw it when they escorted us here.”

“Thanks.” Helmin gruffly replied, before walking to the door without any further resistance from the women. He was pretty upset at all this, and wanted to make someone pay, whoever it was. Adventuring through the strangely empty hallways, Helmin found a stone staircase, and slowly descended. The walls changed from the light brown of the walls of the compound to what looked to be simply the sides of a cave, made of jagged, reddish brown rock, and the cuts in the walls that allowed light to seep through from other rooms or outside were replaced by torches.

Before we get back to Helmin’s misadventure, let me detail a few things. The planet that this scene takes place on, Centim, is a colony planet. A colony planet is where a small group of settlers (around a thousand to two-thousand) of a single species attempt to take over a planet and become a separate entity. That usually doesn’t work, leading to increased co-operation with the GSS in exchange for needed supplies. Centim trades gold in exchange for food and building materials; the wood had to come from somewhere. Now back to the scheduled programming.

The tunnels were extremely damp due to the tunnel system for the pool above, with water dripping from the stalactites and the floor slightly reflective from the water, and sometimes a speck of liquid would drop onto one of the many torches, causing them to flicker and sputter. A low hum resounded through the tunnels for no discernible reason, and if Helmin had hair they’d be on edge. Something was strange about this place, unnatural, and even worrying. This was for sure the place that the women had spoken of; they were on the ground floor, and this seemed to be the only ‘floor’ below that. As he trotted through the tunnels, Helmin sensed some sort of presence shivering around the corners ahead of him, fleeing as he got close. Every time he came to a curve and bend, of which there were lots, many more than on the first floor, he swore that he heard the light patter of feet against the rough stone flooring.

Just like the building above, Helmin found literally no one to fight or even catch a glimpse of, yet, he felt like as if there were people just standing around him, and a sliver of cold snaked down his back as he continued to search for the villagers.

 

The throne room, unexpectedly, was completely empty. Reflective pillars held up the tall ceiling, and a grand staircase led to a golden throne, the back of it extending just a few feet so it touched the ceiling. A stripe of marble led across the stone floor, up the stairs, and into the seat of the throne. Flanking the lavish chair on both sides were very out of place doors, appearance identical to the other wooden ones Kolt had seen. Must’ve had a wholesale sale at the carpenters. Behind him were the gigantic double doors that he had previously seen the other side of, so tightly shut that not even a speck of light escaped from the seam between them. Holding the Sterling at his hip, Kolt drew his Gabbet-Fairfax, holding it with the barrel pointed upwards. He scanned the room, stiff as a board. This was odd. He took a step forward, still holding his guns at the ready.

And for good reason, as before the sole of his jackboot could meet the marble, half a dozen crows all decked out in golden armor, the design of which was meant more for looks than actual use, leaned out from behind the pillars, opening fire on Kolt with a mixture of Sterling carbines and old top-break revolvers also emblazoned with golden parts. Leaping behind one of the pillars, Kolt returned fire by sticking the long, shrouded barrel of the carbine out from behind the pillar and shooting back. Chunks of the glass-like material that the pillars were made of began to chip off as bullets began to smack into them at over a thousand feet-per-second. That’s pretty fast, in case you aren’t aware.

The fight became a battle of attrition after a while; the guards had sprayed their magazines at Kolt, strained their fingers, and reloaded countless times, while Kolt was reloading under much more duress. Digging around his pouches, he pulled out a fat little cylinder that had blinking lights all over it along with a yellow streak down the middle, and bopped the top of it with his palm as he hugged his carbine under his armpit. “HELLO, PLEASE SELECT YOUR MODE.” The grenade buzzed in a robotic voice as a yellow smiley face appeared on the top of it where Kolt had bopped, and he pressed a tiny button sunken into the front with the thumb of his robotic hand. “CONTACT DETONATION SELECTED.”  

Hucking the grenade toward the middle of the room and turning away, he heard the grenade whistle, “HAVE A NICE DA-” as it sailed through the air, and the muffled blast that ended the sentence for the grenade deafened him for a moment. Ears ringing before they adjusted, he ran out from behind the pillar, leaving behind a pile of empty Sterling magazines as he one-handed the long carbine and blasted with his Mars, his stiff prosthetic making the recoil non-existent as the shockwaves lept through his upper arm. The guards, blinded by debris and dust, futilely covered their eyes as bullets ripped into the flesh uncovered by their golden armor, which buckled and rippled when a bullet from the Mars smacked one of them in the chest but tore through nonetheless. As I said before, the armor was meant more for looks than actual usage.

Sliding the gigantic handgun back into his thigh holster and dropping the empty carbine, he drew his Walther from the largest pouch on his heavy-duty belt, wrapping his fingers around the grip with both hands in a perfect isosceles stance before gunning down two more of the goons. He caught a glimpse of something gold hiding behind one of the pillars next to him, and leaned back to dodge the stock of a Sterling carbine thrust out by a particularly beefy guard.

{A}

Sticking a hand into his pocket, he drew out his switchblade, folded closed. The blade flicked out, and he rotated it in his hand and jabbed it into the neck of the guard in an instant, face completely blank as he did so. The guard dropped his Sterling, and clawed at the small blade dug into his neck as blood squirted from the wound. Kolt pulled his arm back, and the red blade slid out from behind the hairs on the crow’s neck.

“Well done, mercenary.” Someone chuckled in a low, honeyed voice from up the pristine stairs that he stood in front of. After pushing the convulsing crow to the ground and looking back up the stairs, Kolt caught a glimpse of the figure whose voice he heard: A crow, like the others, except with a very flashy crown made of simple rectangular shapes and triangular spires, with a naked chest and silver loin cloth draped over their lower body, which was covered in glinting armor. Finely gilded and stitched gloves were pulled over their hands, one of which was supporting the underside of their beak, the other tapping on one of the armrests of the stiff throne.

{A}

“I bet you expect me to come quietly. Let me just say, that my royal guards were all imbeciles. Incompetent fools, to say the least. I, on the other hand, am more than capable of driving you yelping back to your ship, insect.”

“I’d like to see you try.” Kolt sneered, holstering his Walther and placing a foot on the first of the steps, “I can break your spine in an instant if I wanted to. Surrender. Now.”

“Do you even know WHY you’re apprehending me?”

“No, and it doesn’t matter enough for me to care. I am ready to accept your full unconditional surrender. As a member of the Privateer private military corporation, you are to be under my jurisdiction and by extension protection and-”

The crow stood up from his throne, and reached behind his back. “Oh just shut up already.” He drew a bronze pistol from a previously unseen holster and promptly shot Kolt in the chest. It felt like someone with a good arm threw a stone at Kolt’s chest. {A} The Aldearian stopped mid-sentence and took a step back, slowly looking down at his vest and probing the bullet hole with his pinky finger.

The bullet had punched through his vest, but not his thick Kevlotton shirt. As the crow, who Kolt correctly assumed was Goldbeak, worked a small ring under his Volcanic pistol, he finished, “…and are to be treated as a prisoner of war if you do not cooperate. And it seems you aren’t willing to cooperate”. The pistol’s ‘rocket ball’ ammunition was weaker than a .25 ACP, and Kolt’s multiple-layered shirt was more than viable for stopping the slow-flying bullets. He took another step, and Goldbeak shot him in the chest again, to literally no effect except a tiny bruise. 

Goldbeak took a step back as he worked the action of his pistol again, sputtering, “What the hell?”

“You should’ve done your-POW” Another low-velocity bullet hit him in the chest, “…research. The ammo that a Volcanic pistol uses is so pitifully weak, that even my shirt can stop one. Speaking of shirts, you seem to not be wearing one. If I wanted to kill you, I could just line up a shot and, POW, shoot you dead.” Kolt made a finger gun at Goldbeak, who was starting to freak out as he worked the ring lever of his handgun again. “Just be glad i’m here to, POW, take you alive.”

Goldbeak tried to shoot Kolt in the head, but the Aldearian was already at the top of the stairs. The alien simply knocked the lever-action pistol out of his hands with a lazy slap and drew his Walther, pressing the end of the suppressor up to Goldbeak’s forehead. GB started to raise his hands in surrender, but let them slump to his sides as his brow scrunched up.

“I thought you left?” He said.

“What?”

“Kolt?” A familiar feminine voice sounded out from down the stairs.

“Zerr?” Kolt muttered, turning to look for her. GB took his chance and grabbed Kolt’s wrist, jerking it to the side and causing him to drop his gun. His wrist snapped, Goldbeak’s muscles not just for showing off to unimpressed women unlike the guards, and Kolt growled as he clocked Goldbeak in the face with his robotic left hand, knocking him down in a spiral of spit and blood and denting his beak good. He landed next to Kolt’s discarded Walther, and reached for it.

Something slammed into Kolt’s side as Goldbeak raised the handgun and fired it. It seemed like the semi-quiet suppressed gunshot echoed louder than all the others in the chamber. Scrambling to his feet, Kolt kicked the pistol out of Goldbeak’s hand and stomped on his chest, and the crow wheezed before beginning to groan in pain, unwilling to fight any longer. Turning to see what pushed him, Kolt looked over the pile of sandy, torn rags, and the sprawled out, long-nailed hands that stuck out from the top. Some of the cloth was starting to grow a red stain. Kneeling down, he tossed over Zerr, and she wheezed not that differently than Goldbeak did. Through her ragged clothes, a small hole ran through her side. Blackish red gunk started to pour out, and Kolt tried to staunch the bleeding by pressing down on it with both hands, but the dark blood simply ran out the hole in her back.

“Kolt…” She muttered through her cracked, smaller beak, “Don’t… don’t…”

“The only ‘don’t’ is don’t talk. You’ve been shot through the kidney, and it’s dumping its contents through your back. I’d suggest you stop tal-”

Zerr cut him off. “I’m… a hemophiliac… please… don’t kill… him…”

“A hemophiliac?” Why did fate have to fuck him in the ass so often? He didn’t even have time to get off its bed before another curveball hit him in the back of his scrotum. “I’m going to try and lean you over, alright?” He leaned Zerr on her side, which in turn caused her blood to start flowing at an even faster rate, but allowed him to cup the much more violent exit wound. Zerr just stared at him, and Kolt in turn stared back, unsure of what to say or do next.

“P-Promise me, that you won’t kill him.”

“I won’t, I promise.” He meant it.

“Thank… you…”

And then Kolt realized once more why he wanted out of this job.

He kept getting attached to people, even if he barely knew them. And although he wouldn’t admit it, Kol was… emotionally weak for someone in his line of work, even if he didn’t visualize it. If you kicked a puppy in front of him and it was a particular breed he liked, he would frown. That’s more emotion than most Privateers who aren’t lobotomized as Pawns.

What, you’re asking if some particularly unruly and annoying Pawn’s are lobotomized by their fellow trainees as they lie in their bunk beds? Oh, you were just asking if Privateers were lobotomized in general. Uh, no, not at all, of cooooouuurse not! And if you see a Privateer who is particularly drooly and has a permanently dazed look on their face, just ignore ’em! They were proooobably just socializing  with some lobotomized or brain-damaged clones so long that they began to gain their mannerisms! Or something. Back to the extremely melodramatic side-character death scene!

With a trembling hand, Zerr brushed the side of Kolt’s rugged face under one of his eyes, before said hand fell limply to the ground. Her pretty blue eyes tore into Kolt’s skin like laserbeams of judgement, but she felt at peace. And cold. She felt REALLY cold.

Though she barely knew him, she saw something inside Kolt, something… esoteric, hard to understand.

And something to be afraid of.

And something to deeply loathe.

And something to fall in love with.

She went still.
Zerr was dead.



Kolt let Zerr’s corpse slip from his arms, and he just continued to look at it. He barely knew her, yet, he cared for her, and now that she was dead, he was very, very mad. The chattering in the back of his skull got louder and louder with every moment, and his metal knuckles locked into place in his prosthetic as his fists curled in rage, yet, his facial expression stayed the same; the ultimate poker face, mouth drooping slightly, eyelids a quarter down his reflective eyes. He stood up,and turned to face Goldbeak, who had gotten to his feet and just stood there, also wearing a similar blank expression. The pistol sat in front of the wall farthest from him. Kolt didn’t need it.


Kolt’s fists, bloodied, with feathers sticking out of the creases in his prosthetic, pounded into the crow, over and over and over. Seething hatred filled Kolt as his mouth foamed, and his knuckles screamed in pain as they collided with muscle and bone every other punch. Goldbeak fell onto his knees, gasping and sputtering, and Kolt continued to stare at him.

His eyes widened, his face relaxed, his scowl disappeared, and he stopped pounding into the crow’s face with his fists, instead letting his arms go limp and sway at his sides as his shoulders sank, and his posture changed. Beating Goldbeak up didn’t give him as much satisfaction as he hoped, but he knew what would. Staring down and without blinking, Kolt pulled the switchblade from his pocket again, pressing on the button on the side. The blade chopped the air of the throne room once more as it flew back into position, flicking blood as it locked open, and he sighed. Kolt’s black glove tightened around the darker plastic grips of the stiletto. He shrugged off his torn vest, letting it slowly fall to the steps behind him, rolling down a few before settling. He wanted a crow feather vest.

His uncharacteristic change in behaviour wasn’t normal; He’d normally have curb-stomped the crow by this time, and his thoughts wouldn’t have gone this dark. His widened eyes, the slouch in his shoulders, the quieted breathing, none of it meant well for Goldbeak, and he knew that, and decided to at least get something off his shoulders before Kolt took the flesh from there too.

The crow began to speak.


Theo crept through the ramparts with his handgun raised by his head. He had managed to crawl into the tower and into the concealed parapet of the wall, and in the dim light saw a guard watching the commotion outside through an arrow slit, not noticing Theo’s presence. Theo stepped behind him and kicked him in the back of the knee, placing the barrel of his pistol against the feathers on the back of the crow’s head when he fell down. “Freeze.” He quickly slapped some zipties onto the crow before clocking him in the face with the butt of his gun and knocking him out, and Theo continued on his misadventure.

He came to a wide room illuminated with a torch, a large pulley system reaching through the middle of the floor and the roof. This must be the way to open the doors, the Marbelian thought, before grabbing the large wheel situated in front of the pulley system and trying to crank it, grunting and grimacing. It was no good. He turned and peered out an arrow slit facing the other set of doors leading into the main hall of the compound, sighing deeply.

“Kolt, you better be okay…”

 

Kolt was just fine; Goldbeak gushing out his life story as Kolt blankly stared at him, and he was starting to wish that he had just snapped his neck instead of punching him in the face. “… and then I got elected, through sheer luck. I became a dictator, a monster of my own accord. Who would’ve thought that, huh? I guess i’m done. I never did want to be a ruler. I just wanted to go home. But, it was just, too enticing for me… I WANT to go home, and, possibly, help Zerr with her scavenging operation.” Goldbeak sighed, and he glanced over at his sister’s corpse. “Too late now. People used to know me as Cordell. Now, i’m just, Goldbeak. You know that saying, the grass-.”

“Is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Kolt finished.

“It’s true. It’s, actually true. And I… it took me until NOW to realize that. Pitiful…” The waterworks started as Cordell brushed one of his eyes with his palm, trying to wipe away some tears, but accidentally causing the rest of his emotion to spill out. He had killed his sister. He had turned himself into, into THIS. The crow looked up at Kolt’s imposing figure, and babbled, “D-Do you even know how it feels to be so lonely that you take an entire village hostage, just to have a harem of women who, maybe, just maybe you could convince to be your friends?”

“Fuck no.” Kolt immediately answered.

“Huh?”

“Not at all.” Kolt got on one knee and glared into Cordell’s beady little eyes. “I’m not lonely. I have my friends. I have Theo. I have Winter, sort of. And you had your sister. And then you killed her. You don’t kidnap people because you’re lonely. You dont kidnap a few DOZEN people for any reason. Why can’t you understand that? Why COULDN’T you understand that?” He stood back up, and continued to glare down on Cordell.
The crow sniffled, emotionally wrecked, before slowly tipping his beak towards Kolt’s head. “D-Do what you must.” He stuttered; he fully expected to die nows, but he didn’t care, not anymore. He closed his eyes and let what would happen, happen.

Kolt dropped his knife, and it fell down two of the stairs behind him before stopping, blood from the unfortunate guard dripping from the tip. Tears streaked down Cordell’s bent, broken beak, filling the cracks, turning them into miniature golden rivers. Kolt drew his Mars pistol, pointing the massive handgun at Cordell’s forehead. The crow leaned forward and placed his own forehead against the barrel. He was scared of dying, but he deserved this. {A}

Kolt however thought otherwise, plus he had orders.

He pulled the gun away from the sniveling crow’s forhead, crouched down, and hugged him.


And at that very moment, Helmin extended his hand, and his fingers brushed against the strange, pulsating object on the stand, in the tunnels deep beneath the building. It hissed, like escaping steam, before the red glow dimmed, seconds later disappearing completely. Helmin stood there, mouth agape, hand lingering in front of the object. And then the truth of the situation hit him like a car.

This wasn’t a castle., or a compound. This was a cathedral. And these were the catacombs.

The object started to hum, and suddenly burst into a violent fit of shaking. Taking a step back, Helmin watched as it slowly stopped vibrating, and let out another hiss.

…this is it…

…four more…

…no more…

…let’s dance…

…potato…

Voices, in his head. He grimaced as it felt like a drill bit was being forced into his skull, to churn up his lizard brains into paste. Taking another step back, he didn’t have time to react when his foot met the stale air of the catacomb instead of the rocky steps up to the pedestal, and he fell backwards. He landed on his back in the pool of blackish red liquid, and it overtook him, seeping over his body like molasses, not water. He let go of the carbine in his hand, and it clattered against the stairs, half submerged in the pool. Pushing himself back up, he noticed something about the liquid; it smelled strongly of iron, and what seemed to be… bladder stones were drifting through it. Helmin pawed one of said stones, turning it over.

It wasn’t a bladder stone.

It was the skull of a kobold. Breathing rapidly, Helmin sludged through the thick, molasses-like liquid to the stand, retrieving the Sterling. Laying it over his arm, he set his sights on the object on top of the pedestal, and discharged a single shot. It didn’t move, and Helmins’ ears were ringing from how the chamber amplified the sound. He covered an ear hole with his hand as he grimaced.

Dude what the fuck did you think would happen.

How pathetic.

A mere guard. An untrained militia member. Yet, you dare enter this holy place, my sanctum, alone?

Helmin wanted to stick his nails into his ears, and scratch out his eardrums. Tears ran from his eyes as the coagulated blood seemed to harden around him, and his muscles locked up. Why had he come here? Why why why?

I have something big planned for you, and the rest of your future crusaders. You iconoclasts. Something very… unpleasant. But for now, I leave you some information, all of you.

Upstairs, Kolt, Theo, and Cordell all simultaneously froze up as tears, if they weren’t already flowing, began to pour down their faces, their faces donning extreme grimaces as their limbs all locked simultaneously. Thousands upon thousands of miles away, Hillary Winter sat in her office, her fingers locked around the neck of a newly-opened bottle of whiskey, her lips drooping, eyes sunken, yet wide.

Kolt felt something warm surround him, not unlike a blanket, but one that you’d think would strangle you if you draped it over you.

A double-edged sword can nick its user if swung recklessly, and a coin has two faces, one bottom, one top, and the wrong one will always come up, even if you separated both coins into their respective sides. Pride.

Theo felt something flood over him, like a wave of liquid, and he collapsed in the tower.

Loose lips sink ships, and yours are weighing you down. Every month, there are two full moons, and on those days that surround them, some people’s inner demons awaken. Yours included. Envy.

Cordell wanted to scream, and then vomit. The pain of the naked flesh around his mouth from where his prosthetic beak was ripped from his face by Kolt’s fists was amplified threefold by the presence around him, and he gasped for air.

Two pennies are more than one dollar, and a dead bird with a paper note locked in its beak’s worth more than two rotting ones in the bush, stuffed with coins. And you’ve spent the last of your change. Greed.

Winter felt her iron grip on the bottle strengthen as something warm snuck up her pant leg, wrapping around her upper torso. The feeling felt familiar, in the worst kind of way.

Hatred for yourself leads a loss of appetite for life, and to a handshake with death. A flurry of fists can sometimes miss, and strike those you were protecting in the deepest of places. You’ll get what’s coming to you soon enough. Wrath.

Helmin was last, and it felt like the blood soaked onto him began to pierce through his flesh, warming his own viscous fluid to blazing levels.

A slow response means a slower funeral, and your intents will soon shine through, little lizard. Gluttony.

And now, to all of you: not all of you live to see the dying of the last. That occasion, is only reserved for a few.

And with that, it was gone. Kolt sputtered and coughed as his esophagus began to work correctly, and the PDA in his back pocket began to hum. Pulling it out and holding it between his bloodstained hands, he read the words emblazoned across the screen, a recent message from Winter a few hundred thousand miles away:

WINTER: shit just got weird

“I’m getting too old for this crap.” Kolt groaned while staring at the message.

“H-How old are you?” Squeaked Cordell, who was still sniffling, but this time it was because of the pain.

“Twenty-five, too old.”

“Twenty-five is not old!”

“OOOOOLD!”

“Also i’m, b-bleeding quite intensely.” Coughed Cordell through his shattered beak before he slumped over, wheezing.

“Shut the fuck up, Cordell.”

“O-Okay.”

 

A few hours later, Kolt was back on Home Station, lugging around a particularly smelly duffel bag. When asked what it was by a denizen, he said it was gym clothes, but that obviously wasn’t the case, as the last time Kolt went to the gym was over five years ago.

After rowing the boat over to the island in the middle of the lake of the grove, Kolt dragged the bag with him as he trudged up and down stairs, not one person batting them an eye, probably because all of the people around him were lobotomized. Kicking the door open, the well-dressed clone jumped in his seat, just barely saving himself from toppling over, and Higgins the rat almost jumped out of his skin. “The hell?” He hissed, and Kolt threw the duffel bag on the floor between them.

“I guess someone lost a puppy near my home. And by puppy I mean a clone tried to shoot me in the back of my head through the window of my cabin.”

“Bullshit.” The clone responded.

Instead of answering, Kolt bent over and unzipped the bag. The smell was so bad that even Kolt had to choke back a little vomit. The clone on the other hand, began to writhe in his chair as he suffocated on the vomit pooling up behind his permanently-affixed mouth piece, and Higgins simply wrinkled his nose.

“This,” He grunted as he picked up the arm dismembered arm he had used to impale the clone in the eye, the decapitated head, ripped hood and all, still impaled on the end, “Should be proof enough.” The two went silent, studying the bag of body parts.

“You… carried that here, to accentuate your point?” The clone asked.

“Hell, i’ve got nothing better to do.”

“Dude that fuckin’ smells.”

“I got used to it.”

The clone sighed, knowing his death was inevitable if he lied or not. “Guess I better explain. We know about the bounty, me and a few other clones. We sent one of the lobotomized ones to deal with you, were gonna split the money between all of us.”

Kolt squinted at the clone, raising his closest equivalent to an eyebrow. “How many of of ‘us’ is there?”

The clone sighed again, leaning back in his chair. “Fourteen, but most of them skipped town after they found out the ambush didn’t work, the pussies.” He groaned, “I should’ve expected you to come back here.”

“And what about the the clone at the front desk?” Kolt asked, crossing his arms.

“They’re in on it too.”

Kolt stifled a laugh. “Well, the media’s going to fling some shit with all this.”  He chuckled before turning to leave.

“Wait!”  The clone yelled out, jumping out of his seat, and Kolt turned back towards him. “Wait wait wait, don’t tell anyone. I can give you an offer you won’t refuse.”

“Said offer being?”

The clone got out of his seat and leaned towards the window, looking down at the lobotomized workers. “I’ve done a little bit of research on you, Kolt, and what I do know is that you like firearms. What if I told you that we have the best machining tools on this side of the galaxy? And some of the most obedient and precise workers available?”

Contemplating, Kolt scratched the bottom of his chin. One on hand, they tried to kill him, on the other, free guns. Hmmmmmm. He wondered how much effort it would take to reverse engineer his Mars; more dakka is always fun. Always. “Anything else?”

“We’ll give you the vacation house for free.”

“Now you have my attention.”

Life seemed to be looking up for Kolt. He thought about what the future held for him…

An undetermined amount of time later….

The future held a bullet for him.

To whoever finds this note:

I, am Kolt Saudwell, ex-mercenary of the Privateer PMC. I am twenty-five, skinny, and have nice amber eyes.

I like men, women and guns.

I am an Aldearian.

And i’m done.

I can’t get a break.

I’m tired, of everything.

Of the fighting, and the killing.

I am NOT stinky, fat, dumb, stupid (well maybe), dumb, racist (well maybe again, judging by the definition I read in a dictionary last week), or a baby-eater (but if the opportunity presented itself…)

I fucked things up. Polito Velent was only trying to figure out a way to practically bring people back from the dead. I killed her. People are praising me for killing her.

I’m not having any of it.

By the time you find this, my brains will be on the ceiling.

Or not.

If so, i’ll sit here and silently  judge whoever finds me before asking them to please stuff my brains back into my head so I can try again.

Fuck you gently.

Kolt.

Wiping his hand across his sweating face, Kolt finished the suicide note. His PDA vibrated on the desk next to him, from people calling and messaging him over and over, Theo’s worried voice messages, Winter’s annoying drunken texts, and now Cordell’s extremely misspelled messages, caused by the fact that the dude didn’t cut his freaking claws. Like, dude, that’s gross. Unscrewing the cap on his pill bottle, he flipped it over onto the palm of his hand, and looked at what he had left.

Nothing. The bottle was empty; all he had gotten from it was some plastic-smelling air. He remembered that he had ran out of anti-depressants last week, probably a contributing factor to his self-ultimatum. Biting his tongue, Kolt flipped down his hood and pulled the shirt up and over himself, folding it and placing it on the lamp-lit desk next to his note. On the other side of his note was his Gabbet-Fairfax, a single round loaded in the chamber, hammer down. If the bullet didn’t instantly kill him for some strange reason, it ping-ponging around his brain would. Aldearians have unnaturally thick bones, yet lack calcium in their body, leading to them being brittle in places. Bending them would make them snap just as easily as a normal person’s bones, but they’re strong enough to hold at least a few hundred pounds with both arms if the arms are bent correctly.

Unbuttoning his white dress shirt a little and slouching back in his chair, he glanced up at the wall in front of him, drooling. Fancy red wallpaper with white, open diamonds. Pretty. Behind him sat the master bed, one that’s complete with those curtains that you can pull around you in case you wanna fiddle your diddle in privacy or something. He looked down at his prosthetic limb. If he had ever did any fiddle-diddling, it definitely wasn’t with that arm. Don’t want that kung-fu action grip engaging anytime soon, or the servos to lock, both of which being problems that the arm seemed to love having. That happened once when his hand was around his privates. He now has finger indents in his Johnson. The pain was excruciating.

With shaking hands, Kolt fixed his posture and leaned forward, clutching the bottle of cheap whiskey he bought earlier in the day, and a shot glass was crunched between the thin metal fingers of his prosthetic. Pouring himself yet another drink, he tried to lift the shot glass to his mouth, but as he began to drink from it, unconsciously adjusting his finger position around the glass, he had only gotten half of it down when the hand’s servos locked up, and the fingers suddenly squeezed.

The shot glass exploded into small shards of glass that promptly fell into the lap of Kolt’s alcohol stained shirt.

“Damn it.”  He mumbled before grimacing at the sudden migraine he got. He looked over his note again, just to make sure. Grabbing the Gabbet-Fairfax with one hand, he picked up his PDA in the other, and thought about sending a group message, but instead threw the PDA across the room. It hit the wall with a satisfying thump, and shattered immediately into many little pieces of plastic and specks of glass, just like the shot glass, which floated away from the wall in slow motion in the weak gravity. There goes a few thousand Forands worth of equipment, but how does that matter?

Kolt’s drunken mind had been thinking about the ‘after-action’ report he got on Velent all weekend. Apparently, her reasoning behind creating that sickly creature that looked like Hillary’s sister was noble; she wanted to create a perfect clone, WITHOUT the Privateer’s help. She just had to cover up her doings, as the GSS, not wanting to sour relations with the Privateers, would’ve ordered her shot and thrown out an airlock if they learned the truth.

He killed a good guy. Well, gal. And her ‘goodness’ was arguable, I mean she DID manage to remotely reprogram a pair of clones who ended up slaughtering over a dozen people and wounding seven others, but it was a means to an end, and Kolt especially knew what that meant.

Yes, she still counted, even if her actions directly lead to the deaths of maybe a dozen or so people.

What does that make him?

Bad? Good? Confused?

A stupid drunk alien?

Maybe all of that.

Well, definitely a stupid drunk alien.

After his realization he called up Theo, and they went to one of the bars on Cerberus, ordering beers and sitting at the counter. After relaying his worries to Theo, the cyclops simply shrugged and patted Kolt on the shoulder, telling him he did what he had to do, just like how Theo planted the spiked end of a fire axe into her neck. But he didn’t feel any better. Five beers later and he was convinced he had done something dreadfully awful, wailing and moaning about how he had fallen from grace. When he went to the bathroom to vomit, he had a ‘what have I done?’ moment, and decided he needed to be punished for what he did, and being drunk, his adequate punishment was, of course, death.

He managed to locate an unlocked ship in one of the hangar bays and steal it, somehow making his way to Home and almost crashing as he rammed the ship into one of the docking bays. His house was one of the exterior buildings attached to Home by flexible hallways, allowing each building to be adjusted so more could be added on. Other than his living room, kitchen, and workshop, it wasn’t much more than a small single-story flat with a fancy bedroom, dedicated masturbation closet, and nice wallpaper, but it was the only place he felt adequately alone.

But it was not like he was going to move anywhere anytime soon after this.

He opened his mouth, staring blankly at the wall as his thumbs pulled back the gigantic hammer of the similarly-titanic pistol. He blinked once, and then twice. No more lollygagging, he thought.

This was the stupidest decision of his life, but it would be the last decision of his life. The fact that he was in this situation just demonstrated how secretly unstable he was, especially when he was off his depressants. Unbeknownst to Kolt, Theo was attempting to get a large prescription of anti-depressants at a pharmacy on the station, forged by himself, so he could find Kolt and force-feed them to the alien before he did anything stupid. But he was far, far too late.

What a pretty wallpaper, he thought, and his thumbs squeezed the trigger.

Red mist floated through Kolt’s room.

 

 

 

 

 

White. The color of Kobold’s suit. White face mask, white shorts, white shirt and hood, but brown skin and black eyes. The kind of eyes that may look innocent on the outside, but, once you stare into them, it’s like staring into the very pits of Tartarus. So, very, very scary. He was a model Privateer. Today, however, Kobold had to act nice. He had to act polite, and attempt to speak the (in his opinion) dastardly tongue that everyone else did, which was mainly comprised of spitting and hacking; Hungarian. He preferred English. He had strapped his machine pistol to his leg, and slipped two extra magazines on the holder on his other thigh for this assignment, guard duty. He hated guard duty. But he didn’t hate money.

The ship shook as it took off from the station, filled to the brim with people of varying species and backgrounds, all loud and obnoxious. Kobold however, was human, something that was quite a rarity nowadays, and he also kept silent compared to the other rowdy passengers, another rarity. The shuttle hummed and bustled, and the sounds of its passengers overtaking Kobold’s senses. He tapped his foot on the grille under him, staring at his boot, trying to keep his wits, arms crossed. Now and then, he would get weird looks from people, mainly due to his odd coloration. Brown flesh and a white suit? His suit was of the same make and model as the kind that the clones were forced to wear, who had milky white skin, but had their garments dyed pitch black; he was a visual outlier.

He remembered when his outfit was dyed it’s bright color quite vividly; He was minding his own business one day many years ago, while he was still training to become a full-fledged Privateer and was cleaning his clothes off in a laundry machine, watching it spin and spin and spin as he leaned forward on the bench, teetering on the edge. He blinked a few times, and felt the pressure in his bladder grow as he watched the miniature waves crash around behind the circular pane of glass. He silently excused himself to no one and brushed off where he sat after getting up, shuffling to the stalls of the bathroom around the corner, sliding the small lock of the door into place before lifting up the seat of the toilet, and unzipping his pants. As he emptied his bladder, he heard the telltale snicker of someone up to no good over the sound of liquid splashing. Not even flushing the toilet or washing his hands, he returned to the laundry machine as two clones left the room, closing the door behind them. He most definitely heard them mumble something to themselves. And when he looked into the glass porthole, he gritted his teeth.

Picking up the half-empty bottle of bleach, he stormed out of the room, into the hallway the clones had entered. Not having noticed him, they slowly waltzed down the hall, whispering things to each other. Kobold simply walked up to them and lifted the open bottle over his head, dumping the contents on the two. As they cursed and screamed in pain as it seeped into their eyes, he returned to the laundromat, retrieving his now white outfit. Walking up to a mirror, he superimposed his shorts and shirt over him. In all honestly, it looked quite nice. He thought so too, and instead of trashing it and getting a new outfit, he kept it. Kobold especially liked how his skin contrasted with it.

Back in the present, the shuttle landed in a small docking port, clamping onto hooks that extended out of the station and being slowly dragged in. When it docked, a female voice boomed over the intercom, telling passengers to depart, and Kobold found his way to an information booth in the terminal. He snatched a packet from it, unfolding and examining the big red dot that signifyed where he was in the station. In the top left corners, emblazoned in italicized white lettering was the name ‘CERBERUS’, and Kobold identified the part of the station he was in as ‘Tower 2’. He had been hired by a scientist in Tower 1 to act as a bodyguard, something he was undoubtedly good at.

He tromped around the tower, looking for bridges across to the other tower, preferring NOT to take a tram, as the people around him were beyond slightly irritating. When he finally found one, he admired the sights of the stations blocky architecture, its surface covered in lights, yet, varying ever so slightly between the two towers he stood in the middle of. Through the glass ceiling above him, ships sped past as if on queue, and he watched them trail off into the void that is space. When his long walk to the other side was over, he was welcomed to Tower 1 by the smell of chemicals and dirty oxygen wafting down on him, and for once he was thankful for the dreaded facemask he was forced to wear on duty, one of the limitations shoved onto human Privateers due to racist politicians and. He travelled down, down, down, following arrows and signs speaking of hospitals and medical wards, taking elevator after elevator, flight of stairs after flight of stairs. The walls shifted in color after he reached a certain depth, changing from rust-brown to white with gray and red accents. Empty doorways started to hold actual sliding automatic doors, and soon the smell of dirty oxygen subsided. He walked up to the receptionist desk, awkwardly placing his arms on the counter as a female frog tapped away on her keyboard, her fingers making wet noises as they slapped on each key.

“Umm, a-ahem.” He cleared his throat, and the frog quickly darted its head in his direction, scanning him.

“Ah, yes,” She said in a non-caring tone, “Take the hall on your left, and enter through the double doors. The doctor is waiting for you.”

“Doctor?” Kobold asked in his gruff voice, made scratchy from decades of smoking.

“I know who you are, I was told in advance. Just take the hall on your left, and go through the doors.” She turned back to the computer, resuming to type and disregarding Kobold’s existence. Still quite lost, he walked around the booth, down the long hall on its left. At the end was a pair of imposing double doors. This was all odd to Kobold. Was he protecting some sort of important doctor, who maybe has the cure to, I don’t know, Space AIDS? He would find out soon enough. He pressed his gloved hands against the doors, and pushed them open.

A lynx stood alone in front of a microscope, writing down something on a note board. Her breathing was heavy and extremely labored, and beside her stood a oxygen tank, placed onto set of wheels with a handle to push it with. A clear tube ran up and in front of the lynx, and Kobold noticed that she wore some sort of large neck bandage. And, as he slowly approached her, unsure, a melodious yet rough voice sounded out from her.

“Ah, yes. You’re the Privateer I sent for,” She addressed him, not even turning around, “I read your file, hhhuhhh, very closely. Twenty-nine years of service, hmm?” She turned to Kobold, and he got the full extent of her injuries; a large brace was supporting her neck, and a oxygen mask was strapped to her mouth. She held her chest as she talked, and, when she breathed in, she let out this horrible hissing noise. {A} She put a hand to her chest, which had a bronze ‘metal vest’ on, a portable iron lung. “I am Polito Velent, medical practitioner and someone quite acquainted with something called genetics, which I doubt a numbskull like you or the rest of you Privateers have heard of.” She hobbled away from her microscope, picking up a pen from a nearby counter and jotting down something on her clipboard. “You, are known as Kobold, yes? You do seem quite draconic, composing yourself with grace as you walk and weave around all the cluttered equipment. Oh, no, don’t be offended, you’re, huuhhhh, perfect. Just absolutely perfect.” Turning to her microscope, she echoed, “Perfect, like these specimens. Actually no, you’re not as perfect as these specimens. Did you know, that the only reason clones exist, is that the original donor, the human, had such perfect traits and genes, huhhh? Ever since, we scientists have been trying to, hhuhhhh, attempt to clone more people, more creatures. But no one has the right set of DNA, or so your bosses say. So, huhhh, I thought, why not try and make my own clones?” She hobbled over to a rack of test tubes, delicately plucking one out.

“More beautiful, spectacular creatures. These microscopic organisms, which at this point are just petite, huhhh, cells, have been led along by me, perfected, modified. And soon, I will be able to create life out of the already-living. They reproduce asexually, by assimilating and modifying their hosts, perfecting them and spreading their glorious DNA. Then, once they’ve grown enough, I lance them off their hosts, then let them grow into perfect copies. That’s the plan at least. They should be more effective than my previous attempt, but I hope they keep their genetic memories.” She smiled, and Kobold eyed her suspiciously, walking up to her and looking over the petri dishes littered all over the place, the stray droppers and flasks, and little trays covered in liquids. “These, are my children. They are small, mischievous little things. My pet project, which, just got a very, very big sponsor.”

She weakly looked up at Kobold, smiling even wider than ever.

“We’re about to experience a genetic revolution, my new friend.”

“…how much am I getting paid for all of this again?” Kobold responded.

 

Was it really worth the trouble?

{A}

End of Episode 1.

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