Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Speechless: Aiming High Part 4


As the skinless man walked across the floor he squished and squelched. Part of me giggled and wondered what vintage the wine beneath his feet would be. A click click click followed him across the floor above my head. His sister was back again. Would the bitch never leave? He’d be a big enough problem without some acid-spitting whore at my back as well.

Things had been going well enough. I should’ve known better. The Baron’s list of targets had all been too… unremarkable. They died too easy, moved too slowly, and lacked any semblance of bizarre abilities. They were normal humans and all too easy to find and kill. I wasn’t needed for this. Nate had known all too well where every one of our targets had been except for the last one.

And the last one had turned out to be a doozy. It wasn’t some random black guy named George. It had looked like him at first. I hadn’t even bothered paying attention to my ears. My pipe, my keyring, my entire body wanted to take off this sonofabitch’s head with one swing.

Too bad he knew I was coming. He had caught my pipe as I swung it and rammed a fist into my belly. The voices had run away at that point and I could hear him sliding around inside a skin that wasn’t supposed to be his. I had sunk to the ground, gasping for breath. With a knee to my nose, he had put me to bed.

My hand was shaking. It had good reason I suppose. My arm was still bleeding. I didn’t know if it would stop. The guy with the loose fitting skin had taken a filleting knife and ran slits down the top of my arm from shoulder to knuckle. Then, he carefully cut the skin away from every other stripe to leave bare flesh before he started adding the salt. So meticulous was he with the little nails of salt he tapped into my arm with a tack hammer. Then, after he had turned my arm into a bloody, salt spiked work of art, he started crushing each spike with a pair of pliers.

He had already half peeled off the George skin he was wearing. His flesh pulsed and throbbed and oozed and every time the salt touched him, he shivered and ran his raw tongue over the meat where his lips belonged.

Each tap of his hammer had been a lightning strike. Every crushed salt spike was a glacier falling into the sea. All the licks that thing that I called a tongue made against his naked face reached up through the darkness and left welts across my mind.

Every time my arm had been about to clot, the bitch had made sure to drool across the wounds. Her spit ate into the little clots starting to form and carved out holes in my arm. She wanted to make sure they got the most out of me possible.

Most out? What? What out? Information? No. Pain. These weren’t Judge spies; they were murderers. I was one too, but a different type.

After the last salt spike had been broken and the sister had finished drizzling another coat acid across my arm, her and her brother had retired to another room. What kind of room? One that didn’t have me strapped to a bed with leather belts and chain. It was a room with a bed that squeaked heavily on every third bounce. As I listened to the little whimpers and pleas I had wriggled my arm free, squealing in pain as I used my blood to slip it out of confinement. Enough of me was missing that it wasn’t all that hard. With one arm free, I let loose all the other straps and had flipped off of the table.

I had guessed it to be George the skin’s kitchen. Squeaking was coming from the north. Out the door in the south wall it was then. That led to a living room and a floor that echoed under my feet. It wasn’t a big enough echo to be a basement. Crawlspace maybe? I listened to the echo wobble around under the floor until I heard it. A vent shaft. Leading to… an open air duct in the wall. It had worked with the fish, it would work here too.

Into the shaft I slid, shaking and quivering inside the metal tunnel. Thankfully, it sloped nicely rather than having those nasty ninety degree bends. I slipped along, and found a place to rest. That’s where I still was, my arm still oozing out blood, listening to the skinless man and his voluptuous, incestuous sister walk around above me.

“You know Tobias, he’s probably hiding in a closet or one of the vent shafts. The fish said he’d be a slippery one that way.”

Tobias. The bitch called her brother Tobias. That was good to know. Wait, what? The fish did this? I had pegged it as The Baron’s way of exerting a little tighter control over his people without using up any resources and killing me off in the meantime.

“Mr. Heat had a similar warning. You know, I think this one’s the type that would hide in air ducts. He seemed small enough and to have wriggled out of the chair, he knows how to move his body.”

“Mmmm… so do you.”

“Now now Anne, less of that kind of pleasure. More hurting first. I’ve got to get it up again before you start attacking me again.”

She was giggling and it was echoing through my ears. I reached down to my pocket and found my keyring. They had left it. My pipe and my rifle were gone but I still had my keyring. I still had my backup plan. I still had four little hunks of C6 with detonators the size of watch batteries stuck to the inside of my legs. As the lovebirds continued to coo at each other, I reached for the little blocks of explosive. They ripped off the skin as they came but compared to my arm, my legs would never hurt again. Even my arm more just pissed me off. My ears had been screaming at me for years. I certainly didn’t need another whimpering body part.

I slid as close to the center of the room as I could and stuck a piece of C6 against the ceiling of my vent. It was only the size of my thumbnail but it’d remove the floor and their legs nicely. Back I crawled, slithering up the vent’s incline to the open duct. I wanted to see this. I had my keyring out.

I was grinning as my thumb looked for the right button on the right keyring. My grin faded when I saw them open the door to the living room and saw Nagumo. He was hanging by his ankles, a dozen strips of skin and scales missing from his chest. He too had been giving the salt treatment, but he was refusing to make a sound.

“What about this one?”

“They don’t even know why he’s here. Looks like he heard about them letting us loose and had a moral dilemma with it. Killed the guy we were supposed to report to in order to get here.”

Nagumo’s eyes opened and he saw me. He saw my arm just like I saw his chest. He saw my thumb on the button and nodded. I pressed the button and the floor blew apart. I blocked my face with my bloodied right arm and the splinters buried themselves in my arm. I peeked over my arm and surveyed the wreckage. Nagumo was still hanging where they had left him with only a few visible splinters in him. The other two were gone.

I strained to hear them, trying to force my way through the blood oozing from my ears after the explosion. There they were. Running. Running below the floor. A sub-basement. Tunnels echoing down the line as they squish squelched and clicked clicked away.

George the skin had been the first of The Baron’s targets to bother having a tunnel system link up to his home. I bet he’d been dead before I had even started killing. Cheap bastards.

I pulled myself from the air duct and skirted around the hole in the floor to Nagumo. His swords were laying next to him, each in their respective light and dark sheathes. He had called them The Darkening and Illumination. I pulled The Darkening from its sheath and touched the tip of it to his chin as he glared at me defiantly.

“I should kill you, you know. I should gut you and let you die slowly for Angela. Then, I should do what I’ve been meaning to and run myself through. A little honor among enemies, eh?”

He was surprised, I think, to hear my voice.

“Honor? You can even pronounce the word?”

“Pronounce, yes. Be bothered with, usually not.”

I sat down on the floor and watched his eyes as I did so.

“How many people like that did The Judges let go?”


“I take it you had a problem with this?”

“I killed one of my oldest friends for his part in it.”

“That’s definitely a yes. Well, from the look of your chest and from the look of my arm, I’d say we have a score to settle. You want to settle up with each other now or later?”

“Pardon me?”

“I’m giving you an offer Nagumo. I may not be the most honorable person in the world, but what started out as a way to get myself killed being a hero is growing more complicated. I’m not keen on living but I’m even less keen on you living. However, I have a new priority on my list. Now, I can cut you down and we can kill each other or we can kill your precious Judges parolees first. Which will it be?”

“You are no freedom fighter.”

“Never claimed to be. I don’t have any mission statements or long drawn out manifestos. I just wanted to die doing something worthwhile.”

Nagumo hung there silently for a minute.

“Death in battle in a honorable thing to seek, even if you do it for cowardly reasons. I may be able to stomach traveling with you, Jack Lorenz. It will be worth it in the end, won’t it?”

“If nothing else, I’m pretty handle with a needle and thread, something that it looks like both of us could use right now.”

And as I cut him down, Nagumo was laughing. I was too. A rogue fish and a suicidal mute with intentions to kill each other. Why not? It made as much sense as anything else as anything else in this city. Honor, vengeance, whatever.

It was time to do some serious hunting.

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