Friday, July 27, 2012

The Pallbearer: War Part 5

One Man Army

My nightmares walked with me as I made the long haul towards the oncoming Disciples. It was hard to tell apart the nightmares from the dreams. With at least one clone of Arlee having been kicking around, it wasn’t that hard to imagine more. That’s all I needed, an army of Arlee; barking orders and whimpering dinner instructions to their long gone wife in their sleep.

I had stumbled through this junkyard before on my way out of Gravesite. I had gunned down phantoms then too. It had been my prisoner disposal unit. I had blown apart their memories and put them to bed. They weren’t haunting me this time. No. This time, it was everyone else.

An army walked with me on my way to greet the Disciples. It was an army of my own making, an army that knew just how deadly I could be when I was pissed. Slavering packs of clowns I had roasted alive and smashed into lumps of burning meat loped along beside me. They bayed long and loud as we marched, looping around my Brute’s legs as I walked. Their towering, strong man, Brutus, stumbled on one side of me. Giggles, the mutant clown thing I had wrestled with walked on the other.

I checked St. George for any wear problems. He had been busy lately with all the dead we had left behind us. Landon had been good about keeping St. George clean and well fed. I only had twenty of each round strapped to my Brute. This fight would have to be kept short or I would run out of ammo.

No, I wouldn’t, would I? Holly Ka was smiling at me from behind a charred smile as her exceptionally ghostly Tulugal carried her aloft. I still had my flamers. I had forgotten them with her and had forgotten them here as well. They wouldn’t stay forgotten.

Thankfully, Mother Butcher and her vegetative friend had both decided to stay away for our march. It was a good thing I reckoned. They would be unwelcome among the cast that was walking me to my death. Captain Angel and his squad followed us in step, their West Worthington uniforms crisp and bright. Behind them, Conduit stomped in the suit Czernabog had taken from him. He saluted me with his equally enormous machine and I nodded.

They all knew what I knew. I would die in this junkyard just like I had died so many times before. They were happy to walk me to my grave, be it here under the Disciples heels or under the West Worthington army to the north of us. It didn’t really matter. Cassie was unrecoverable and dying on a table somewhere as Bellmaker readied the Errata and Sleepers for battle. Omega Configuration would buy them time, but probably only enough for the Sleeper children to escape. That would have to do. I had no other tricks up my sleeve.

I loaded a high explosive round into St. George and felt the satisfying click as the round seated itself inside. St. George wasn’t worried. St. George had never cringed before a dragon. Neither would I.

I was alone when the Disciples came into view. My ghosts had left me. They had nothing to fight with, only shovels to dig my grave with. It was alright. I would do this alone or not at all.

The Disciples might’ve had good weaponry but they certainly weren’t organized. They lacked any formation as they pressed on through the fields of garbage. Their helicopter and glider equipped Seraphim circled over them like irritable mosquitoes. Most of the flesh was missing from them. They weren’t like the Errata, robots hungering to learn how to exist in this world. The Disciples were human, led by one man calling himself Adam 2.0. He had preached that all people should become machines in order to achieve perfection. Any that opposed him were cut down. The one that led this mob was supposedly a member of Adam’s White Guard; the most perfect and inhuman of the cyborg specimens the Disciples had created. His name was John the Revelator.

He was a little impressive; I’ll say that for him. My height? Not quite. Almost though. Johnny boy was only about a head off. It was almost endearing to see that someone had tried to come prepared. John’s silver chassis glowed brightly in the fading light. His mechanical skull glared at me with bright orange eyes. He was big and I could see that pistons pumping within his arms and legs. This one was entirely about crushing people close up. I bet it made for one hell of a sermon.

“Johnny Revolver! Get your ass up here. I’ve been waiting for you and your lot all day. I don’t have any time to waste. Move your ass along. I’m here to wipe the floor with you fuckers. Let me show you what I think of the word of your Lord Adam.”

“You presume too much, unenlightened one. We are here to create a new church in the name of our fallen Lord. You will convert or die.”

Fallen? This was interesting.

“Fallen Lord? Since when did you start recognizing he was a bullshit artist?”

“Infidel! Do not speak of our dead Lord in such a manner. He was betrayed by his own family and died so that we may live. We will carry on in his name!”

“Oh… so you’re running from whomever killed him. Is that it? You’re a bunch of fucking cowards?”

“Heathen! I will strike you down myself!”

I laid down St. George. What was I doing? I knew what I was doing. I was doing what needed to be done.

“Come and get me then if you aren’t a pussy like your Adam 2.0 was.”

The Revelator roared, smoke pouring out the three billowing stacks in his back. He came at me like a train, his thick legs plowing through the piles of garbage. It didn’t impress me much. The Black Dragon Express was still chugging in circles around the battlefield with the rest of those I had killed, waiting to carry me off to Hell.

My Brute and I charged, screaming at the top of our lungs. Our hands met John’s and both clenched tightly. John drove a knee into my Brute’s stomach, aiming, I think to unsettle me. I chuckled and squeezed his hands tighter. The shrapnel that was once a glorious clockwork monster’s hands thrust into my own. My hands sang razorblade sonatas as my Brute crushed John’s hands down to nothing more than scrap.

John howled and jerked backwards, flipping me over him. I landed on my Brute’s head, yelping in pain as it felt like my skull was driven down through my shoulders. That was alright. My skull’s the thickest part of me anyway. I rocked forward, still clutching John’s ruined wrists and flipped the monstrous machination over me. He crashed into the ground with a grinding of gears and a cloud of bolts flying free.

John grabbed me by the leg and twisted, my knees howling in pain. My poor, brutalized knees. That was more than was necessary. I kicked on my left arm’s flamer and poured on the heat. His silver sheen was unaffected by the wires kicking about beneath his plate weren’t so thrilled. John’s arm started to twitch and pop, his artificial body losing its mind as his senses were cut off.

“Was… was… supposed to… face me… fair…”

“I’ve never heard of the word motherfucker. It’s your own fault for leaving your vulnerabilities exposed.”

I pulled my leg free and clicked on my right flamer as well. His metal shone cherry red as his wires burst into flame with that putrid, acid smoke only wire seems to make. Barbeque stink hung in the air as the last meat that hung within his chassis was burned away. Humans have flesh. Robots have to make do with synthetics. So should you.

I stood and looked at the horde of Disciples. They weren’t about to back down. Shit. No demoralization here. They hadn’t forgotten how to count. Oh well, death it was then. I stooped to pick up St. George and stopped. A small man stood balanced on St. George’s barrel.

It looked like Blank, the assassin I had thrown down the elevator shaft. But he was darker. Not tanned, but… like he was standing in a shadow. He was smiling.

“I have to thank you Neil, for this. Mammon tried to eat me to save himself. He found my body after I had slid down the elevator cable. When he started to eat me, he thought he’d swallow my powers, my life, and make himself whole. He figured he’d have another shadow to call when he starting fighting again.”

“I take it he was wrong.”


Blank held up his hands. They were the curled hands of a rat, scrabbling claws ready to snatch whatever they could.

“This is all that is left of Mammon. He misunderstood me. He thought me mad, uncontrolled, weak-willed. Quite the contrary Neil, I have always been strong. Only half of my mind was weak. That half has been jettisoned. These hands are all that remain of Mammon or the other me.

Well… them, and one other thing.”

He closed his eyes and an army of shadows rose up from between the empty cans of beans and garbage bags of diapers. A horde of Blanks covered the field before us and every one of them flickered before my eyes, as if they were melting in the wind. Each one of them bore a toothy, beaming smile as they charged forward into the Disciples. Electric whips snapped around ghosts that moved without being seen. Flamethrowers melted the tires of wheeled Disciples as their targets fled from their sight and reappeared at their backs.

“What do you want Blank?”

“I want life Neil. And you’re going to give it to me.”

“And if I don’t want to?”

I glanced over my shoulder at the horde of shadow-Blanks. They had already torn apart the majority of the Disciples in a matter of seconds. Of five hundred, few than four dozen were left, hobbling into the distance. After two weeks of near solid marching, everyone I had set out to crush had been dealt with. Too bad the biggest problems had come unannounced.

“I don’t believe you have a choice in the matter. Oh, and Neil, my name’s not Blank. It’s Martin J. Windham. I hate it when people get my name wrong.”

Out of the fire and straight into Hell. Just my luck.

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