l they had, they only could have annihilated about a third of the earth’s population. And that is assuming they used the whole arsenal, which they didn’t. Typical stuff. Mussolini was overthrown by his own people, Obama hunted down Hussein and bin Laden only to be impeached and imprisoned by his own FUBAR stands for Fucked up Beyond all Recognition. People who use the expression are usually naive enough to believe in Santa Clause. They use it to reference a bad family situation where the father is humping his secretary and scoring cocaine in the slums while the wife is getting plowed by the handyman while she’s so high on painkillers that she can’t even remember where her children are or how old they are. Hey, at least she knows they exist and the parents fake ignorance of each other’s indiscretions because life is simply easier that way. No one wants to pay a divorce attorney. Hell, the father is a divorce attorney. Even if he worked his own case pro bono, the wife would hire someone and screw his world over five ways from Sunday. Anyhow, those people aren’t the point. They’re an example, a blissful dream from a simpler time.
Anyone over 20 years old is probably old enough to remember the apocalypse. Again, a word people toss out arbitrarily without grasping the true potential there. Really, this was a fucking apocalypse. And it wasn’t even a fucking zombie apocalypse like school boys and conspiracy theorists fantasize about while jerking off to the latest edition of Star Trek. This was a world war. The wrong people got enough power and means to annihilate over two-thirds of earth’s population. People were scattered, divided, obliterated, scarred, wounded, and driven insane by the sheer monstrosity of such a thing. No governments remained intact, even the perpetrators. The ones who survived the initial attacks were taken with the second, the third, the militant refugees, the mercenaries, anyone who had learned how to profit while surviving really. I’m no different. I’m a person of poor moral character just trying to make his way in the God-forsaken world.
Absolute power corrupts, and power corrupts absolutely. Ain’t that the fucking truth. Things were bad enough in the twentieth century when there were nuclear weapons and partially developed biological agents. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Obama, bin Laden, Hussein, and all the others were power hungry. They may have started out as altruistic men, trying to do the best thing for their people, but before long, the power went to their heads. Luckily, nuclear warheads and bio weapons were marginal at best. Even with all the standing arsenals. But in 250 years, technology has advanced substantially, not to mention supernatural phenomena.
I don’t even know what to properly call these people, but the popular name is Sorcerer. They rule the world as much as anyone can I suppose, but there are so many factions and factions within factions that no single one holds power for long. To compound things, they are only one of the groups of people vying for power. There are Military factions, the remnants of standing armies for the various nations of the world. The Bureaucrats, politicians who still have ambition and more annoyingly, influence. The crime bosses, old school mafia bosses who are a lot more brazen now that police and governments aren’t watching their every move. Then there are the rest of us, poor lost souls just trying to make our way. Most of us have thrown our lot in with one group or the other, out of necessity for survival, not idealogy. A select few of us however, have chosen the more dangerous path, the solitary winding road with dangers at every turn.
Being a spy is about discretion, don’t let anyone tell you differently. There is no glory, because no one is supposed to know you’re doing what you’re doing. You work in total anonymity, undercover, carrying out your assignments diligently and often going above and beyond to show your loyalty or fear of being killed. The only thanks you get is your payment and a new assignment. That’s how you know you do a good job, they ask you to do it again. You lead double, triple, even quadruple lives because that’s what it takes to survive. I don’t necessarily like what I do, but I can’t picture myself dong anything else. Maybe I was born to be a spy, maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome, I can’t tell and to be honest, I’ve stopped trying to figure it out.
Mostly, I work for Carianna Thurston, minor Sorceress and damn scary bitch. People with over-inflated egos are the product of their parents coddling them and encouraging them even though they still shit their pants on the first day of Kindergarten. Carianna is the fucking poster child for that, and for women who think they’re hot shit even though they would fail as a prostitute for being too ugly. Now I had the good sense not to say such things to her face as that would likely result in my sudden disappearance, decapitation, or other detriment, but I did work for her primarily, with some work for a colleague of hers on the side. What can I say, she paid well and had a seemingly endless list of chores for me to do. Stealing restructuring plans from a new rival overlord, negotiating border rights with another rival while finding out information on his standing forces, posing as a construction work to gain access to a new building site so I could ensure it collapsed days after completion. Whatever she needed, I did.
Currency was whatever could be considered valuable. I passed on land due to the tenuous nature of holding it. THe person who wanted the land and carried the biggest weapon usually held it. Livestock was alright, as was food in generally, but gold was king. Gold, silver, copper, aluminum, alloys, zinc, platinum, diamonds, any precious metal that had a function. Metals were also portable, unlike real estate and livestock. Sure, I always travelled with a few sacks of food, grains and vegetables mostly. That is one anomaly that I still can not explain, farmers were left virtually unscathed after the initial attacks. I think it has to do with the amount of starvation in the world. I think all the dumbass overlords recognize that annexing a farm in the other way to ensure anyone survives. Rogue bandits and anyone else who attacked a farm could expect bitter rival rulers to put aside their differences for the day to hunt them down, divide the spoils, and give each other 10 minutes to get someplace safe before the treaty wore off.
Vehicle: supreme (rank 3)
In this world, it pays to be intimidating, just look at Carianna if you don’t believe me. Realistically, she’s a minor player who is average at best. At worst, her rivals could crush her within a day. But they don’t know that, nor do they see her as only average. They see her as a hard target, mostly because they’ve seen her do some nasty things to people they considered solid. They didn’t know that I had scouted her targets out and given her a step-by-step plan of how to marginalize their efforts or take them out completely. I would have taken credit for it, but I like my head where it is and one pair of eyes in the back of my head is enough. And I may hate that bitch, but she plays her part well, bragging about her exploits to all the right people. She shows them that she has the means, motives, and opportunity to accomplish her goals. The results were that other warlords thought she wasn’t a smart target to wage war against. There were softer targets out there, and they’d get more bang for their buck elsewhere.
I’m a mercenary, always have been, always will be. Carianna understands that. She’s threatened to kill me a hundred times over, but I know what she’s thinking. She’s thinking that if she kills me, she’ll have to replace me, and there ain’t nobody better than me, not at what I do. Also, I think she wants to jump my bones and hump me into next week, but that’s just a hunch and not something I want to think about at all. It’s bad enough I have to look at her on a regular basis. Fat, ugly, bad attitude, no thanks. Yeah, I have standards, probably the only area of my life that has standards, but I’ve got to start somewhere right?
Anyway, back to appearances. I travel well, about as well as can be expected. Officially, I’m a negotiator, a middle man, a go-between. As such I represent my client and must look the part. That means a nice suit, and even better looking mode of transportation. Some car companies still thrive, even thrived through most of the ugliness though many of the manufacturies were destroyed. Technology is an amazing thing. Park this puppy on a thermal-charging dock, and in about 30 minutes, it has enough power to go all the way around the world, Francis Drake style. The Hyundai Cataclysm, for those of us who aren’t scared to be amused by all the shit that has happened in this world. Standard twin solar-cell engines with retro rockets and turbo thrust capabilities, this thing flies about as well as can be expected with exceptional handling.
Honestly, I wish driver’s licenses were more strictly enforced. I don’t know how many times I’ve been crashed into, then blamed for being in the way. In the interests of time and my own headache, I usually just shot those people and took their stuff. In some cases, I had enough time to remove components from their vehicle and repair my own or sell them afterwards. I honestly wish it didn’t come to killing, but when people have no concept of right and wrong, it’s better to put them out of their misery. I know I’m a person of poor moral character, but at least I know when I’ve fucked up. Not that I’ll admit it to anyone, but at least I know.
Sad But True
Eldritch Energy: superior (rank 2)
I mentioned shooting people because they pissed me off. I don’t use an actual gun or weapon per se, I just carry one to make it look like I use it. It’s better than the truth getting out there. In addition to technology progressing, so has evolution. A combination of evolution, toxic radiation, technology, mutation, and education has made it so that everyone has some sort of ability that is classified as supernatural. Anyone who won’t admit it is either a liar or has not found their particular value yet. It may be something as innocuous as an aptitiude for machines or the ability to raise crops when the land is devoid of any nutrients. Then we get into the more bizarre and confounding. I shoot energy, live, glowing, multi-colored, many faceted energy straight from my hands. Such a gift is rare and usually reserved for the ruthless overlords striving for control of anything they can get their hands on. I don’t want that much power, but in order to do that, no one knows about my gift. To that end, I carry a weapon that shoots energy, customized to match the residue my blasts leave. Carianna knows me to have a gift of intelligence gathering and a slight mechanical affinity, and that’s just fine with me. She doesn’t have to know the truth about the Solaxa supply depot.
Fairly simple, she had sent me to scout the place. It had seemingly sprung up overnight and was another neutral entity like me. They sold to anyone on two conditions. First, you had to advertise their weapons and proclaimed neutrality. Second, you were not allowed to use their own weapons against them. A sound business plan if I do say so myself. Truth be told, had our initial meeting gone better, I may have started working for them instead of continued employment with Carianna. But some things are not meant to be, and they did not do any more business with anyone after that day.
I went to the compound, nice and easy as an envoy from Carianna. Even took some complimentary food stuffs as a sort of peace offering. They gave me the public tour which to your common person, was fantastic. To me, the spy, it was a sham I saw right through. They showed us the immaculate chairman’s office, the testing ranges, the test results for a given weapon, but nothing of substance. For Carianna to use something, she needs info, chemical formulas, physical science aspects of the particular explosion from a device, things these gentlemen did not provide. I excused myself to use the bathroom and started snooping around, but I must have been careless, because armed security guards found me and before you know it, I was unconscious on a cement floor.
I woke up with a pounding headache inside a dank and damp prison cell. Probably somewhere in the heart of the monstrous compound. I was unbound, and there was a single guard on duty. Places like this had unsavory reputations for dealing with intruders, and I had no intention of waiting to help that reputation for Solaxa grow. I calmly took down the guard and opened the lock on my cell. Donning his uniform, I casually made my way to their main energy reactor. Simple, nuclear. Sure, nuclear was outdated, but it was safer than some of the stuff out there. Still, a reactor this size would incinerate the complex in seconds if it ever blew up. So I took one of the guard’s grenades and threw it inside, then ran like hell.
The Great Beyond
Phasing: superior (rank 2)
As the grenade flew into the reactor, I ran frantically toward what I thought was an exit. Oddly enough there were no guards at the reactor itself. I guess they figured that anyone who made it to the reactor had a right and a purpose to be there. Didn’t bother me, made my job easier. If anyone besides me survived, no one could prove I did it. I doubted anyone would, most of them would not possess a gift that would survive an explosion of this magnitude. And if they did, more power to them. The second of my hidden gifts, the ability to shift my physical presence into another plane, came in very handy. I was actually about to use it when the guards got the drop on me. They just hit me hard before I had completely shifted. My concentration broke and my being came back, allowing them free reign with their fists.
The explosion was typical, lots of fire, intense heat and falling debris. I heard screams, but they were as distant as the pain I would be feeling in their plane of reality. After I knew I would not be discovered, I made my way at a moderate pace toward the general direction of where my convoy would be, if they were still there. All mercenaries like myself, they probably disavowed any knowledge of my personal exploits and exited as quickly as they could. They’d make it look good to Carianna, something about me being a traitor and selling out to the highest bidder, blah blah. I’d get revenge in some form, but I don’t blame them. I’d do the same thing in that situation.
Anyhow, back to the exit, the building fell aflame around me, revealing the parked vehicles in the distance, hazy through all the smoke. I made my way steadily there and sure enough, there was not a trace of the people I had come with. For that matter, a majority of the vehicles in the parking area were too damaged from the explosion to be of any use. At that moment, I was very glad Carianna had insisted on using her official territory vehicles and not letting me use my beast. Mine was better true, but hers were official and mine was safe at home. Anyhow, I found a serviceable vehicle, and started her up with some basic tools. Then, sensing I would have to play things very carefully, I drove in a different direction entirely. Carianna could wait a little longer while I thought up a good excuse.
Energy Absorption: superior (rank 2)
I had finally settled upon a story for Carianna. Actually, it wasn’t a story, it was the truth. I was doing my job, got careless, got caught, escaped. We’d worked together long enough that I was confident she’d be a bit pissed off at me for awhile, but I’d do a fantastic job on the next assignment and she would forget about my substandard work on this job. Sadly,that was not the case. My fellow mercenaries had told her I outright betrayed her. They even murdered two of their own who didn’t agree with the plan and framed me for it. They had my energy cannon and made it look convincing. No amount of explaining was sufficient and she had me locked in the dungeon portion of her mansion with two armed guards, and me chained to a wall. What can I say, she was thorough.
That evening, she came in to my cell, looking all dolled up. Well, as dolled up as she could look I guess. She was still ugly. Dress a pig up in a suit, and deep down you know it’s still a pig. She grinned ruthlessly at me.
“I know you didn’t betray me, but I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.” she said, dragging a finger down my cheek.
It took quite an effort to refrain from vomiting. She had sent the guards out of the room, and now it was just her and me, chained to a wall. Her particular gift was manipulation and creation of electrical currents. She started sending pulses through me, starting slowly, but picking up the intensity rapidly.
“How does that feel precious?” she asked in her best seductive voice, which still sounded like a farm animal cooing.
“My name is Trevor, you crazy bitch. Why the fuck are you doing this? That fucking hurts.”
“Now pumpkin,” she said, sending her hottest jolt that caused me to shudder as if having a seizure, “That’s not very nice of you. You never have any fun, and I want to have fun. Is this so bad?”
This crazy woman had an S&M fetish? I guess the crazy part is that the fact did not surprise me at all. “No, I don’t want any part of this. We had a good working relationship and you’re fucking it up. I’d rather have sex with my own mother.”
“Wrong answer, but I’m a patient woman. I’ll just have to persuade you.” She sent stronger and stronger volts through me, hoping to break me, but all it did was gave me hope. I absorbed the energy, saving for the opportune moment.
“Had enough yet?” she asked after an hour.
“Yes, I suppose there are worse things than your bed,” I said, head drooped, appearing exhausted.
“That’s the spirit” she said, fishing a key from somewhere on her person. “The chains in my bedroom are much more romantic.”
After she untied me and led me up through the mansion to her bedroom, I took my shot. While she was locking the door, I turned on her and fired. No words, that’s why so many villains fail. They need that parting shot of words. Not me, I just needed the parting shot. As I looked at her husk, lifeless, I smiled. She’d been a good employer, just got greedy like so many before her. I took some valuables that were in sight, they made a hasty retreat to my own dwelling about six blocks away.
One Man Army
Tactician: standard (rank 1)
It’s been a year since Carianna died. I do miss the steady paycheck from one single employer, but that’s all. I’ve since settled the score with my fellow mercenaries who sold me out. It’s one thing to leave me behind, it’s quite another to frame me for betrayal, murder, and get me in trouble with captain ugly. I did have to move my dwelling though. Once word of Carianna’s death spread, rival warlords came and carved up her territory like a honey-baked ham at a hillbilly hoedown. I had no desire to be caught in the middle of that. Sure, I’d work for any one of them, but I’d prefer it to be on my own terms from a safe position, not out of necessity for survival.
Truth be told, I do work for them. Bitter rivals hire me and are constantly outbidding each other for my services. They won’t kill me, I’m too valuable alive. A stolen weapon formula here, a crippled transportation system there, a tactical analysis every now and then, and I made a pretty good living. Hell, I even employed a staff sometimes. All smart people who just wanted to live on their own terms, oweing no allegiances to anyone except our operation. And the only reason they held that allegiance is because it was better than the alternative. Fight for the warlord who may kill you for not fighting or for failure, or work for the guy they keep around due to expertise and a damn good reputation, it’s a no-brainer.
So that’s life, not simple, not overly complicated, a mix of shit that would make most people in the present world envious and most people from the past piss their pants. Rags to riches to prison to free and then somewhere in between. I often wonder what I’d have been like if I had been born into a civilized world like the ones I read about in ancient textbooks. Something tells me I would have been bored and pissed off at the weakness that abounded. Another part tells me that I’d be blissfully ignorant and that ultimately I would have been happy. I guess I’ll never know. That’s why it’s called a dream. The only certainty is that I am alive now. C’est la Vie.