Posted 07 May 2011 - 06:39 PM
The Industrial Quarter, the Water Treatment Plant
Jill sprays bullets across the pavilion; Scourge jumps for cover behind a massive line of water tanks. The bullets tear massive holes through the tanks, water seeps from them. He laughs.
“Why is it every time we meet, you come with somebody else, but you and I always end up dancing together?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. Your just a virus with a big mouth.” She reloads a clip into the Reaper, “This dance is gonna be over real quick.”
As she fires through the water tank, she presses on his position. She turns, barrel raised, and he’s not there anymore. A hand pops around the other side; Scourge had circled around to keep from being flanked.
The tips of his fingers come towards her. Jill gracefully dodges backwards, only the tip of a fingernail glances her cheeks; the enzymes of decay on Scourge’s finger singe her but nothing is harmed.
Scourge pushes in close on her, Jill pulls the trigger but one of his hands keeps the muzzle focused away from his body. The gunfire barks from her barrel and tears up the ground around them. Scourge shoves her against a wall, he sends everything he has at her through his hands, but that damned armor stops him.
She slams the grip of her gun into his chin and Scourge backs off. Jill pulls the rifle towards her but he still wrestles to keep it away.
:Aim low, babe.
Jill switches her momentum and pushes the gun straight down. She holds the trigger and the Reaper sprays bullets. A few ricochet off her boots harmlessly, others slice through Scourge’s legs and feet. He yells in pain and is finally forced stumbling back.
Jill lifts the gun quickly, she aims.
Something crashes out a window then hits her back with a large thump. The gun fires, yet shots glance off to the side as Jill falls. Scourge retreats behind cover once again. She looks back and finds Jason lying on her, aching.
“What the hell is your problem, why did you jump on me?”
“I didn’t jump, I was thrown.”
Koji rips through the door to the outside pavilion. He had gorged before this in preparation; he was…bigger. Jason’s AR-15 is caught in his arm. With a flick of the wrist he sends it skipping behind him towards the other end of the pavilion. A twisted smile comes across his torn lips.
He pounces towards the two and grabs them both with oversized meat hooks of claws. The jagged blades can’t cut through their armor, but the giant strength behind them offers an immense pressure. Koji lifts them up like ragdolls; Jill’s Reaper clatters on the ground as he lifts them sky-high.
“Two friendly faces…” Koji muses, “Well… two familiar faces anyway… Who’s it gonna be…..who wants to say hello to their old pal first?”
Jason smirks between gasps.
“Let me help you decide,”
He pulls a knife from his vest and slams it through the creature’s claw. Koji lets out a screaming hiss; he drops Jason suddenly. Grasping the knife in his throat with one hand, he flings Jill backwards with the other. She slams against the wall of the treatment plant. The impact chips the brick, she falls ten feet to the ground.
Koji tears the knife from his flesh. Jason attempts to shuffle towards Jill’s gun. Koji catches him by the leg and drags him back. He flips Jason onto his back and pushes onto his sternum with both frontal limbs. His armor begins to creak and break, Koji squeezes harder and Jason can feel it cutting through.
A blast fires off and Koji roars in pain. His head swivels on his neck. Jill is standing, the AR-15 in her hands. Her armor is scratched where she hit the wall but she’s still breathing. She pumps the underslung shotgun and fires again.
The shot hits Koji below the waist. He crumples to his knees; Jason shoves him back. He stands up as Koji crawls. Jason looks to Jill.
“I was aiming for his head.”
Jill laughs. Jason laughs back; then he sees the man approaching her from behind.
“JILL, Behind you!”
Jill turns, Scourge grabs at her head above the armor. Jill’s face grows pained, her air passages shut down from a quick acting respiratory disease. She asphyxiates. Scourge clutches her throat as it happens. She can barely choke out words
“I got better.”
Gunfire erupts again, this time from Jason’s position towards Jill’s enemy. He holds the Reaper in his hands and it spits full-auto fire towards Scourge. The shots miss Jill for the most part, Jason is a cleaner shot with the assault rifle. Scourge moves Jill as a human shield. Jason knows not to stop, her armor is stronger then her gun. The bullets bounce of her, yet a few rounds catch Scourge in the side.
Scourge throws his shield to the floor and runs. Jason pulls a bead on him. He would have made it; Koji had staggered to his feet and shoves him into the air before he could pull the trigger. He slams against a water tank. It was the lightest hit he’d had so far, but it was enough to stun him. When he drew the gun up again, Parasite and Scourge had fled back into the interior of the building.
Jason considers a chase, but Jill’s struggled gasps interrupt that chain of thought. He moves to her side as fast as he can.
“Jill, are you ok?”
:DOES SHE LOOK OK?
“Water,” Jill croaks.
“Don’t worry about the water, I think they got to it before we got here, but I need to help you first.”
She punches him hard in the arm.
“WATER!… in your…trunk!”
Jason realizes what she means, but doesn’t understand how it would help. She doesn’t leave much time to argue.
Jason dashes on stiff joints through the plant towards where they parked. Rather than climb the fence, he pushes through a gaping hole that had seemingly been torn away by the escaping Sayang members. He goes to his trunk and fumbles with the keys until it opens. A simple cardboard box filled with bottled water sits waiting for him.
He snatches the box and dashes back inside. He carries the whole box with him, the bottles jostle as he runs. Jill lies where he left her; her face is blue, she isn’t breathing. Jason drops the box at the next to her and uncaps a bottle. Jill’s mouth opens and he takes the hint.
He pours it down her mouth, the water dribbles across her blue lips. About half the bottle is spent before Jill shakes herself up, gasping for air. She hyperventilates as her air-passages seem to magically reopen. It takes a few seconds before she can regain speech.
“I…hate… both those guys… SOOO much.”
“Right there with you.”
“No, you two don’t understand. I really, really hate both of them….Like twice as much as Marzanna,…. I would pay Marzanna to kill and eviscerate both those guys if I had the cash.”
“I’d probably chip in for that,” Jason says.
He helps her to her feet and the two walk into the main building. They approach the piping system Scourge was kneeling besides when they entered. The maze of pipes looks like the inside of a pinball machine, everything intertwines together in a chaotic knot.
“Jack, any chance you can tell us if he managed to infect the supply?”
:Zero way of knowing babe. The process you have to do to filter it is gonna take awhile. There are five main treatment tanks around this place; if he infected even one of them you have to clean them all because it could have spread to all of them by now. I’m calculating at least 42 separate steps to get this done.
“Great… What’s step one?”
:Shutting off the system. That will stop water flowing out until we’re done. There should be a switch with a big red handle on the catwalk above you.
Jill looks across the room then pounces for the nearest ladder and climbs onto the catwalk. The switch is bright red and marked ‘do not touch’.
“What’s going to happen if we shut off water to the whole city?”
:That would be bad. I just skimmed the news feed, massive fires have built up near the riot in Lowtown. Without the water, that whole sector’s going to look like your mom’s ashtray.
“So, I shouldn’t pull it.”
:Well, uh…no, wait, yes, go ahead. The Underground Reservoir is still online, so excess water will be drained from there. With Helenas, the Alien, and the wanna-be cowboy down there it should be fine, especially since we know the ‘chaos patrol’ decided to attack here. Assuming no massive failure, we should be fine. Shut her down.
Jill shrugs. She grabs the lever.
“Here goes nothing.”
John forces the iron door open. The rust on its joints make it slow work. Once its moves, a slight break from the smell of sewage greets them. The next room is cleaner, but still dark. John waves his flashlight across the room, the beam seemingly continues on forever.
“So this is it,” John muses, “The Primary South-End Reservoir. It’s… bigger than I imagined.”
The reservoir is too wide to look across in the dim light. John looks over the sheer bigness of it as his flashlight dancing across the subterranean lake. Jasmine looks down, at the water itself. Her face arches in disgust.
“John I don’t think this water is clean.”
“You’re fine, it never comes in contact with the sewage, the systems never intersect.”
“That not what I mean. There are…things in it”
“What kind of things?”
John looks down to where her flashlight points. Tiny insectoid spots float and squirm in the water. The water ripples, the miniscule bugs zip away. A dark shape begins to rise to the surface. An insect nearly half a foot long, serpentine in shape, with gnashing teeth swims towards the light. It pops from the water and slithers up the reservoir wall.
John partially recognizes the centipede’s unnatural design. He pulls his revolver and blasts the bug on the spot. The bullet splatters it against the wall. Despite her own inhuman nature, Jasmine musters some feminine disgust at the creature.
“What was that thing?”
John picks up the pieces with his hand. He studies the head briefly, then tosses it away in anger.
“…You mean parasites? Those things are parasites? How can you be sure?”
“I’ve seen them before.”
John shines his light across the surface of the water. Thousands of the tinier bugs still creep and skim through the reservoir.
“I didn’t know he could put them in water,” John says with no explanation.
“What do they do?” she asks.
“They live inside a human host. They enter though the mouth; when they’re bigger they have to be forced down, but if you drank something with an egg or one of the little ones, you wouldn’t even notice…From the stomach they eat their way through the intestinal lining and travel towards the brain stem. They alter a person’s brain chemistry; make them different.”
“Different? You want to be more specific?”
“…Violent… uncontrollable… sociopathic. Jill nearly took my head off when she was infected. But an entire city that could have these things inside them without even knowing, it would cause anarchy, chaos, a—”
“A Riot.” Jasmine says coldly.
The realization hits them both at the same time. They were too late. The parasites had already infected Lowtown. By now, the whole city may be contaminated.
“We can’t help anyone already infected,” Jasmine says, “We have to logically focus on what can be done to fix the underlying problem. When this happened to Jill, how did you reverse the effects?”
“Helenas,” John replies, “Helenas was able to extract the parasite, but that didn’t kill it, I don’t know if—”
“Don’t worry about that. Lets find her then see what we can do.”
They exit through the iron door. They move quicker then before, the path seems more familiar and the urgency greater. They run through the tunnels, searching for the fork where they separated with Helenas. Once they find it, John turns off a different path, back towards the upper sewer. Jasmine looks over at him.
“Where are you going?”
“It shouldn’t take two of us to find her. You find her and take her to the reservoir, see what she can do.”
“I’m heading to the surface. If Helenas can’t kill the bugs then we need a back-up plan. If I can call Jill, I can get Jack to give me instructions on how to shut off all the water from the reservoir.”
John begins to climb the ladder
“Hopefully it won’t come to that, but its better then letting the whole city descend into madness. Besides, since Sayang attacked here, the city should still have safe water from Jill’s location.”
John climbs upward and Jasmine walks down the left path. She yells for Helenas, but nothing comes back. The path seems to descend farther; it reenters the sewers. The stench is horrid. Jasmine waves her flashlight in all seeming directions as she runs. The Underground has split into a labyrinth.
Every now and again she hears a step behind her. She pretends to ignore it. It comes every few seconds, but she can never see what. She yells for Helenas but nothing comes back.
It comes again, this time she hears it for sure. She whips Joey out and charges for the corner she heard it. There is nothing there. Behind her she hears a footstep even closer. This time she feels something as well, a fist that catches her on the side of the jaw.
Jasmine falls back, springs upward, and prepares herself in a quick fighting stance. Her light catches the figure this time. The woman wears shredded body armor; stitches line her limbs and torso. Her hair is dark and she gleams back at Jasmine with eyes like onyx marbles. She sniffs the air and seems absorbed in it.
“You’re not the one I’m hunting for…” She says.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Jasmine retorts.
“It’s all right. I’ll kill you first, then hunt down the other one.”
Jasmine sneers smugly.
“That might be harder than you think. What makes you so certain you’ll beat me, Miss?”
Ports Region, The Big Sink
DeLuca glares down over The Sink, the water gurgling at his knees. Half sunk wharves and the roofs of drowned shops pop out from the murky surface of the bog. There are no waves in the murky water; The Sink acts as a tide-breaker for the rest of the city, perhaps one of the reasons it has never been demolished.
This is the first time DeLuca has ever come to the Big Sink, it is the first time he ever had a reason to, but he knew of it well. Before The Sink sank, it was the “Canal District”. It was built on a large triangular sandbar on the edge of the city where a city canal opens up into the sea.
The sandbar only exists hypothetically now. It eroded over time and the landfill foundation crumbled like paper-mache. Unfortunately for the city, the buildings weren’t really destroyed, just lowered. At low tide you could walk the old streets of the Canal District, at high tide you could probably swim through it. No one owned the land anymore, no one wanted the responsibility of tearing it down. As far as Khazan City is concerned it no longer exists, and non-existent territory cannot be within their jurisdiction. Of course, some individuals of the city were more than willing to agree with the concept of The Sink being off-limits for city regulations and law enforcement.
Dusk was coming and visibility was fading. DeLuca looks back towards Merci.
He slides down the embankment and moves towards the center of the old district. He can hear the sloshing of Merci’s steps behind him. He scans the rows of buildings. They seem to go on for miles. DeLuca puts his mind to work.
They’d need somewhere big to fit their whole group. If they were storing supplies it would have to be dry enough to not damage anything. DeLuca scans some of the larger sunken warehouses and wharves. The first two prospects were too sunken to hide in, the next one was surrounded by a high fence that had yet to be broken through. He progressed deeper into the graveyard city. At a lumpy highpoint of the Sink stood an ugly rectangular monstrosity, The Port of Kings Fish Co. The first floor was still swamped, but it had two more stories on top of that.
DeLuca sloshes through the water slowly towards the rusted iron double door. Merci follows in behind and lays her hand on the knob.
“Wait.” De Luca says.
One end of the door was slightly ajar, as if pulled taut. He waves her back from the door. He leans against the wall next to the double door and stretches his arm across to the knob. It turns slowly. DeLuca breathes deep then thrusts it open. A shotgun appears inside the door, DeLuca peels his hand away; a shot goes off.
There is a silence. He peers inside the now open door. He sees the pump-action shotgun leveled on a tripod; a string hangs off the trigger and leads up to the inside doorknob. If anyone had opened and walked in they would have set it off. Tony calmly steps inside the rotting abandoned fishery glad to not have his insides filled with lead. He kneels to examine the set-up. Merci follows timidly.
“How could you tell?”
“The string wasn’t quite long enough, it was holding the door open. Saw the same thing back in the old days when I had to forcefully give some mug his last rites… It’s funny. They manage to throw this whole city into a panic, yet they mess up on a simple door-trap. Makes you wonder if it wasn’t just a diver-”
He stops mid-sentence as he sees the dark black wire cutting through the murky water flooding the floor. It hides beneath the surface like a serpent. In his periphery he sees Merci take the step. He tries to warn her again. He isn’t quick enough.
Her shoe steps down on the trip wire. It snaps with an elastic bark. The wire ran up to another series of tensioned traps. With it released, a pulley sets in motion. A two ton support beam crashes down on top of them.
DeLuca shoves Merci out of harm’s way. He is almost crushed for it; the beam passes less than an inch from his nose, then lets out a massive splash as it hits the floor.
Tony stumbles back. He looks up. The platform held by the support beam is now tipping over little by little like a domino. Deluca bolts across the flooded floor as part of the roof collapses.
The debris shifts towards him like a wave. Deluca manages to run away just in time and remains unscathed. He pauses to take a breath.
“Damn, somebody went all out.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you noticed.”
Tony revolves fast but not fast enough. His gun hand is blocked by a vice of a grip. The assailant’s other hand slams across his throat, like a sledgehammer swinging against his trachea. He senses his gun wrenched from his fingers. Tony pulls back and throws a blind haymaker, the man dodges and Tony eats a knee. Blood begins to drip from his jaw line, he remains conscious out of sheer force of will. All he sees are the dark glasses masking the man’s face.
Voodoo smiles down at his struggling opponent. He was smart enough to see the door-trap and the tripwire, but not much of a slugger. He throws the gun into the mountain of debris. Tony struggles to his feet; Voodoo moves in and wraps his powerful hands between his shoulders in a half nelson. He shoves Tony’s head down into the calf-high pool of muddy liquid flooding the ground.
Waves of bubbles reach the surface as Tony bucks and tries to escape. Voodoo holds the position calmly, keeping De Luca’s head below the waterline, just waiting for it to be over—
The smoke was sifting through the air. It is thick, Jackson feels it burning in his lungs as he stumbles through the park. He clutches his head and yells out in pain.
Whisssper Man/ hears aaaall your thoughts - has a plan.
Whisssper Man/ can taaaake pain away from... this land
The voice was getting deeper. It reverberates inside Jackson’s skull like an echo chamber. He felt his mind weaken and numb. The words were getting to him; the concept of undoing the pain, of getting rid of it all, they started to become his thoughts as well.
Every now and again, the voice would change in pitch. He’d hear the echoes of the little girl from the apartment, her exact words.
You’re a monster. You need to be destroyed.
“Yes… yes I do…”
Jackson whispers to himself. He staggers through the park; in front of him under the shade of a tall hickory tree sits a man tattooed up and down his entire body. The man never says a word as Jackson nears him. The whispers only come to his mind.
Its time…its time to end it all, to end all your pain.
Jackson’s hand lurches down to his waistband. He pulls the pistol out and he draws it upwards in a daze. He had been saving it, in case he had to stop himself, to stop a monster. The tattooed man smiles grimly as the barrel of the gun reaches the side of Jackson’s temple. His mind is gone, completely left, the Whisper man stands.
An engine roars, they both look over.
The frame of the Mustang shoots through the bushes. The car smashes into the tattooed man with a violent crash; his body flies backwards and collides with the tree. He then falls limp on the ground.
Jackson stands in awe. With his mental assailant down, his mind returns. The car missed him by less then a foot. Hyperventilating, he slowly lowers the pistol from his forehead and points it away. The driver door opens and The Conspiracist hops out. He looks at the wiry man he slammed into the tree, then towards the silent and still Jackson, the pistol still in his hand.
“What was happening here?”
“Long story.” Jackson replies.
Jackson slides the gun back into his holster. He looks over the car; it’s been beat to hell. One of the wheels is missing a tire, and the undercarriage looks as if it drove over a grenade. The paint from the bumper seems to have been scraped off when The Conspiracist plowed through the park.
“What happened to your car?”
“Another long story.”
Jackson finally looks The Conspiracist over. The man is limping. He clutches his side and seems to be dabbed all over in blood. Jackson didn’t push the question further.
The sky is turning brown and hazy from smoke. The fires must have spread across more of Lowtown and into other districts. The whistle of sirens breaches the smoke, reaching the two even in the depth of Hickory Park.
“We should get out of here,” The Conspiracist says, “This one, and the other one I dealt with must have been behind the riots. The other one was an explosives guy. What could this one do?”
He points to the tattooed man laid up against the hickory tree.
“He provided the impetus for people to riot,” Jackson replies, “He could push them to do things, set them in the right direction. I don’t know if this was all of them, but I don’t think we can do any more.”
His partner nods. Jackson walks around the car and opens the passenger side door. He steps in as The Conspiracist slides back behind the wheel. The engine revs and the weary Mustang creeps out of the park.
At the side of the tree, the Whisper Man breathes shallowly.