Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Pallbearer: Funeral Music Part 4


I prefer pain.
It's the biggest reason I fought to pilot a Brute-X17. I didn't care about the job. I wanted the pain.
See, you can say all you like about a brilliant pilot able to move like his ride is a part of him, but that's bullshit. Pain brings clarity, awareness. When my Brute is damaged, pain courses through me. I am my machine. It moves as I move, I see what it sees.
The pain encourages self-preservation.

Facing Giggles, I couldn't help but shiver with excitement.

"Come and get me laughing boy. Time to put out the rest of your eyes."


Beast jerked backward as he fired off another round, this shell ripping apart the few remaining acrobats charging us. Graceful, even when flung through the air in pieces.


Vaudeville barked orders from atop the wall, trying to rally his scattered forces. It was futile. Only the calliopes had maintained any sort of formation... all four of them that remained. One of his two strongmen were dead. Neither had been as strong as Brutus or even half as large. Unfortunately for them, Brutus was laying quite still in the gap in the wall. Someone had done that favor for us. The clowns, only a fraction of what had laid waste to the cityscape behind us remained, but there was no sign of Giggles.

Someone had done the majority of our work for us. From the way Vaudeville kept glancing over his shoulder, it seemed that someone had been able to hold them back.


"Alright boys, concentrate fire on the calliopes and that last strongman. The rest is playtime and mop up for you guys. Beast, gimme Vaudeville. I want that bastard off his perch and down where I can reach him."

"Da. Perun, Stribog, on my mark, we finish off the wall."


"Yeh boss."


All three fired at once, their shells whistling through the air. The wall burst, falling, Vaudeville falling with it.

"Excellent boys, I'm off."

"Have fun guttin' him boss."

I giggled, licking my teeth, and raised my custom tommy.

"You have no idea."


The wall dissolved under cannon fire, and for a moment, Giggles was distracted. I tackled him and drove his head into the pavement, slamming it down again and again. Giggles snarled, flailing wildly, slicing open my left arm. I yelped in pain and drove his head into the ground one last time.

Giggles writhed underneath me, flipping me off and onto my back. He scrambled to his feet and drove three hard kicks to my stomach. I gasped and caught his leg on the third shot. I twisted it, jerking his bony leg to me and heard the bone snap. Giggles squealed and fell atop me, ramming his claws into my shoulders. Pain lit my blood on fire. I struggled beneath him but Giggles held fast, leering down at me.

"Mine. Mine toy. Mine meat. Want. Want taste."


The last of the clowns fell squealing with lead in their bellies. The last few calliopes were engaging The Seven. They'd be fine with Beast leading them. I wanted Vaudeville.

"C'mon out you bloody little coward! Scared to face me without my leash on?"

"Whatever would make you think that?"

Behind me.

He sauntered casually out of the shadows, those too-perfect teeth gleaming, suit still flawless.

"Why would I be scared of you little girl? I beat you down before just like you deserved. What? I'm supposed to be scared now that you've hooked up with some reject tank brigade? I think not."

With a snarl, I emptied the rest of the clip into him. He jerked and twitched, dancing for me. Blood dripped down his suit and he dropped to his knees.

"Still haven't learned. Shooting me is kinetic energy. And what do I do when I eat energy?"

He grinned through those damned flawless teeth as the holes filled back in. His scorched skin stretched back over the holes. Untouched.

"You can't stop me. You can't kill me. You can't beat me."

I giggled and his eyes went wide.

"Silly boy. I don't have any intention of killing you. Just making you scream and beg for the end. Don't you remember? You never let me die, only rarely let them die."

In a blur I was on him, claws around his throat.

"I have such sights to show you my love."

He began to scream

and it was glorious.


Giggles began to laugh again, pulling a hand free from my shoulder, starting to carve open my chest. Howling in pain, I jerked my arms up, grabbing Giggles' head. He snarled and dug deeper, his claws working their way to my compartment.

"Suit power failure imminent."

No, more. More. I gritted my teeth and pushed. I am my machine. Giggles jaw began to crack under the strain, bones popping as I pushed all the harder. Giggles lashed out, tearing apart my left forearm. Rather than let go, I rolled with him, pinning him beneath me. I pulled my hand around to tighten on his throat.

"Want a taste motherfucker? Have a taste."

I rammed my left hand into his mouth and his jaws snapped shut, clamping my hand between them. His eyes lit up.


I kicked on the left flamer and blew a gout of flame down Giggles throat. He thrashed wildly, screaming, flailing. His body glowed as the fire ate him from the inside out, devouring him. I rolled away, shaking, clawing my way along.

I stopped dead.

With the wall down, all was clear. Vaudeville's Carnival had been decimated. The tiny force he had thrown at us was nothing to what he had in waiting behind the wall. No more. His army was decimated, blown to pieces. Seven tanks, each painted like the head of a different animal, continued to fire on the fleeing stragglers. But Vaudeville himself was locked in a fight of his own. A furred figure in drab skirt and long jacket darted around him, lashing out, slicing him open again and again. And each time, the gashes drew back together.

I crawled forward, clawing my way through the corpses. My hand found a familiar shape beneath a mound of charred clowns.

St. George.


Vaudeville dropped to his knees as I carved his open his back with my claws.

"Please... please... make it end..."


I grinned, drawing my luger.

"Never. But a bullet in each of your eyes will do nicely for today."

He was up, lunging forward. I squeezed off a shot. Too low. He caught me around the waist and dragged me down. Wrenching the luger from my hand, he smashed it into my jaw. I felt the bone crack, and struggled beneath him. Again the luger fell, thudding against my temple.

"Always a slow learner kitten. That's alright. I'll train you yet."

I screamed and threw him back, flinging him away from me.

In mid-air, he exploded, each piece tumbling to the ground afire. A giant of a Cleaner lay prone near Giggles roasted corpse, arms nearly severed. It was scarred with claw marks and lay shaking. A rumbling voice.

"You're welcome."

It shook once more and collapsed entirely, power failing.

"Beast! Beast! Goddammit Nikolas! Get over here!"

The Seven all jerked at that, roaring from their comfortable perches, meeting me at the wall.

"What happened to Vaudeville?"

"He did."

"Corp Cleaner. Grave Warden by the markings. Brute-X17 model suit. Want me to finish him off?"

"No Nikolas. He's coming with us."


"He... saved me."

"So? He's a Cleaner that just killed the mayor's nephew. He's about the make the most wanted list."

"He's coming with us."

"Fine, you get him out."

"I'm not getting him out of anywhere. We're taking his suit as well."


"Nikolas, shut up. I run this division now. I say he's coming, he's coming. The pilot's probably dead already. Now drop your chains so I can hook him up and go."


The bodies were already starting to grow cold when he found them. He scooped them up and stacked up into a pile. Electricity coursed through his blue armor, a single robotic eye watching the world. He raised his hands and lightning shot from them into the chunks of seared flesh. They melted and ran together, dribbling into a single puddle. Unmoving, more electricity arced from hands to puddle. A hand pushed up from the ooze, pulling itself free. It clawed its way out... bone... muscle... skin...

Vaudeville snarled.

"You can stop with the juice. I'm back."

The figure stood silent.

"So, my Uncle reaming your company yet? You guys dropped the ball on this one. He'll hear about this and he won't be pleased. Not at all."

"Quiet. Where did they go?"

"They'd head inward. That's where she hides. Her and those goddamn tanks."


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