Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Pallbearer: Where The Dead Belong Part 1

The Day After

My teeth hurt.

As I began to move, so did everywhere else. My eyes crept open like a ten-dollar drunk's.

And I saw my hands.

I didn't move after that. I (jesus my hands) hadn't seen my (where's my brute where the fuck is my brute) hands in over three weeks (yes neil, more, morrreee). My suit supplied me with everything essential (not everything hon, now come back to bed) for survival. I curled up into a ball (just fucking go!) and waited for sleep to come.

The tanks got there first.

I could feel them. Rumbling, grumbling. A storm rolling in.

I refused to move. I just stared at my hands.

"Der Kitten wants to talk to you."

I turned to look. It was the black tank, the dragon tank. Its long, twisted snout was aimed at my head.

"Where is it?"

"Where is what?"

I stood, staring down the barrel of his cannon.

"Where is my Brute?"

"You'll find out soon enough."

I'm no athlete. I'm pretty pudgy at that. But I can still move damn fast for a guy my size.

I lunged to the left. The turret spun, trying to track my movement. I stayed low, planted my feet, and pushed off, leaping onto the tank.

"Tell me where my Brute is or I'll rip you out of this goddamn tank and throw you under its treads."

As I reached for the hatch, the laughter began. Booming belly laughs echoing from all seven of them.

"Little man, I am the tank."

I yanked open the hatch and dropped inside.

Empty. Closet. Trunk.

The hatch slammed shut.

No, coffin.

"Now that I have your attention, I have a few rules to cover. Don't toy with any controls inside the tank or I'll turn on my defences. The gas would be odorless but quite lethal. Don't try to escape; you have an appointment with Der Kitten to attend. Finally, keep in mind that I suggested killing you. You are a liability and it is only through Der Kitten's direct order that you are still alive."

I slumped into the driver's chair.

We began to move.


"Who is Der Kitten?"

"The one who saved you."

"I gathered that much. She's the one who was fighting with Vaudeville right? What does she want with me?"

The tank remained silent. I sighed and watched the outside world through a tiny monitor.

Unlike the Corp news reported, most of Gravesite appeared to be still standing. In fact, the quarantined entertainment district was fluorishing. Cabarets, nightclubs, music halls. Towering malls, like overstuffed suitcases, were overflowing with the arts. Musuems, libraries, art galleries... all littered the landscape. The E-Rail still ran in this part of town, darting from mall to mall, making its serpentine rounds. It too overflowed, but with those who still lived here.

The streets were by no means empty either.

They pulsed with performers looking to entertain. Writers slunk through the crowds, sketching words into mid-air. The words burst into flame, slithering over each other, a mass of twisting letters falling to the ground... rising as a new birth, a new creation. Artists sauntered through the throngs of people with ease, abstract and surreal bodyguards dripping with fresh paint clearing a path before them. Musicians toted bladed guitards with razor chords, explosive drums, and machine gun organ grinders.

We went, for the most part, unnoticed.

"Hey little man, why are you so uptight?"

"I'm inside a living tank, in a quarantined dead zone, separated from my only means of protection.'

"Bah, I am not alive. I am merely a ghost in the circuitry."

I shook my head, trailing my fingers through my hair.

"The other six, are they like you then? Ghosts?"

"Them? Da. But they are special."

"How's that?"

"I am their ghost too."


"They are me. I control each one of them."

"I thought they were ghosts."

"They are copies of the original. Flawed as they may be, they were born from perfection. And they still have to answer to me because of it."

"But... I thought..."

"That is the problem little man. You think much but not very well. Every good conductor knows where each instrument is and directs it separately. Now be quiet, we are almost there."

We cut to the right, down into a parking garage beneath the Gruber Memorial concert hall. A wall slid open before us and we rolled through uninterrupted. It slid shut behind us. My display kicked off.

"Time to get out little one. The boss is waiting for you."

The hatch swung open and I slipped out.

It was just a simple garage with bays for each tank. They were already prepped and waiting for our arrival. Der Kitten sat waiting for us in a director's chair, tapping her paw impatiently.

She rested her boots on a barrel of oil in front of her. She leaned back, taking a drag off her cigarette and blew smoke rings into the air. Her drab gray army coat hung open and she wore nothing but fur beneath it. Der Kitten watched us from beneath the brim of her officer's cap.

"You took long enough Beast."

"But I..."

"No buts. This is important."

They began to bicker, but I was elsewhere.

My Brute.

It stood in the corner of the shop, still scarred from the battle with Vaudeville. St. George rested against the wall beside it. I ran to my machine. Suit up, fight out, go back. Back to Home Office. No, to Takt. To Cassie. Yes.

Der Kitten dropped her smoke and lunged from her chair.

"Wait! It's not ready yet!"

I ignored her and leapt up, snaring a hold in its lower back. I pulled myself up, scrambling into the cockpit. She was still screaming no.

Yes. Oh yes.

The Brute's back slid shut, sealing me inside. The air mask and feeding tube both fell from the ceiling. I slipped them on and they bonded to my skin, sealing the connection. Transmission fluid poured in through the ceiling. Electricity pulsed through the oozing fluid. Every nerve came aliev as sensors came back online. I opened my eyes.

No hands.
Steel fists.
Much better.

Der Kitten was shouting.
I didn't hear her. St. George was in my hands.

Beast swung around. His cannon met St. George's barrel.

"Who's little now, asshole?"

"Take your best shot little man."

I did.

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