Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday Re-Visit: Face of Death

After much tweaking and tuning, I think I have finally decided to re-post this excerpt. It is one of my favorites in the story so far, and I still like seeing how much progress I have come from three years ago.


“You have two choices, run, or fight,” She challenged, blood dripping from her blades, breath heaving  in drunken fury.
The mercenaries, not as foolish as their boss, took flight nanoseconds after she finished her sentence.
“Smart choice.” Nara whipped the liquid from her swords before they collapsed back into their sheaths in a faint purple flash.
Garrett was coughing as blood filled into his busted lung, spewing out liquid onto the concrete. She knelt down over to him and turned him over, sitting him up over her knees.
“Can you still hear me?” She called out, producing several silver pellets from her belt. He nodded weakly. “Good. Don’t freak out.”
He parted blood encrusted lips in a feeble attempt to ask what she meant, but no sound would come out of his mouth. Instead, he started coughing again, causing Nara to turn his head over so he wouldn’t drown. She dropped the pills on top of him, and with a few tiny clicks they sprouted legs, crawling about in circles all over his torso.
He gasped and squirmed as they dove in and burrowed into his wounds, forcing Nara to restrain him as the creatures did their work. They burst inside of him, creating metallic barriers covering the bullet holes and sealing off damaged tissue in his lungs, allowing him to breathe. The pain was too much for him to handle, and he promptly lost consciousness.
Nara let herself emit a miniscule sigh of relief as she re-evaluated her situation.
“Alright,” She thought out loud. “We’re going to hang tight here a little while until I…figure…out…”
She slowly turned her head around, staring out at her surroundings with a look of dread. An eerie yet familiar silence pierced through the trees, like a vacuum bubble boring into her ears. Then a soft howling pushed its way into the air, slowly growing in intensity.
“Oh, fuck!” She cursed at the seemingly empty street. Definitely not what I needed right now, she groaned internally.
She strained to listen to the surge of air, trying to pinpoint the general direction of the noise as she hefted the unconscious Garrett over her shoulders. There was nowhere to hide in the flat plain of the ruined park.
Six cloaked figures emerged from the streets behind her, closing in to circle her. Soulless and featureless, they levitated above the ground, the bottoms of their cloaks torn to shreds, fluttering about as an artificial wind swirled between them.
“No, no, no, fuck, fuck, FUCK!” She launched herself up and bolted through the decayed trees, adrenaline coursing through her as she fled from their pursuit.
She knew she could keep the Enforcer’s off her tail alone, but having the kid with her made the task exponentially complicated. He should not have fired that gun; it may have made matters worse for her.
She ran through a mazeway of streets, but the cloaked beings were somehow able to discern her every move. The farther she ran, the closer they were.
Through the frenzied distraction of her panicked thoughts, she took a wrong turn, and Nara suddenly found herself face to face with a massive wall of brick.
It was in poor shape, but it was in ideal condition for climbing, and potentially her only chance of escape. She shifted Garrett into a manageable position and began to frantically ascend the wall. Against her better judgment, she looked down at the street, meeting eyes with the empty faces of the figures staring up at her. The sight sent a chill down her spine, and she commanded her body to push faster, scaling the wall in a harried speed.
Her ascent halted mid-stride as an unknown force shoved her into the wall, her forehead slamming into the brick. She exclaimed in agony as she glanced over her shoulder, discovering a metal clawed hand buried deep into her flesh. Blood leached from the wound as the claw’s grip tightened, digging down into her clavicle.
She looked back to see that the gauntlet was affixed to a metallic rope sprouting from the arm of one of the hooded figures. Before she had the chance to pull herself away from its agonizing clutches, the specter snapped its arm back, retracting the rope with a rhythmic whir.
She clawed at the concrete mortar in a vain attempt to maintain her holding, but as the clawed hand pulled harder, it shredded through her muscles, wrapping its fingers around the bone. Her screaming nerves forced her release her tenuous hold of the wall.
She abandoned the notion of freeing herself from the phantoms and pulled the unconscious Garrett on top of her, letting herself plummet to the ground as gravity eagerly took her in its ruthless grip. The air was forced out of her lungs as she crashed, landing flat on her back. She heard the unsettling crunch of her plates cracking open as she lay on top of the jagged concrete, paralyzed with pain as the shock disbursed through her body.
She was forced to release her grasp of Garrett as the metallic rope coiled itself around her neck. Wheezing and gasping for air, she vainly tore at the chafing restraint suffocating her. The mechanical snake device continued to wrap around her, constricting her inside an orderly carapace.  She strained to break free of her entrapment, twisting and contorting as every one of her muscles screamed at her to stop fighting.
Her struggle was cut short as blue fingers of lightning suddenly crawled all over her. She convulsed inside the entanglement as tendrils of pain lashed through her skin. With an agonizing cry, she ceased her defiance, allowing her body to lay still. At her compliance, she was then dragged across the pavement to the feet of her captors.
So this is how I die, she thought bitterly through the tempest thrashing inside her skull.
Two hooded figures glided over to Garrett’s body, standing motionless for what seemed like an eternity, appearing to examine him without touching him.
The wraith that controlled her leash suddenly lifted her from the ground, dangling her inches off the pavement like a piece of meat. Gravity shifted her weight onto her more brutal injuries, causing her to bite through her lip in order to keep herself from screaming.
She felt a slight release of pressure as the rope opened up a gap over her back, revealing the three bullet holes in her coat, the remainder of the exit wounds Garret had endured. One of the figures standing over Garrett returned to her, scrutinizing the blood-drenched evidence in silence.
After another eon, the coils snapped shut over her back, causing her to gasp as her wounds were cinched together around her flesh. The inspecting figure fluttered back over to Garrett’s body, watching silently over him again. It stepped back, looking up at his comrade in silent approval. At least that is what Nara could discern through the veiled features of her captors.
The second figure knelt down and placed a sleeve over Garrett’s head. Flickers of white light spidered across the youth’s body, causing him to moan in relief, as if his grievous wounds troubled him no longer. A wave of panic washed over Nara as she witnessed the enigmatic ritual.
Anger welled up inside her mind, and her vision began to blur. The light in the streets began to ignite with an ethereal fire. An odd energy coursed through her limbs, and she found strength to fight the metal shell, straining against the coils in an attempt to tear herself free.
Another burst of electricity crackled from the coils and exploded inside her brain, forcing her to lie still again. She suppressed her agonized panting as the second wind was instantly drained from her. The coils then tightened, squeezing her already bruised lungs, preventing her from starting another outburst.
Do they intend to keep us alive, she thought with dread, hold us captive somewhere deep in the Fringe?
She had witnessed many horrid practices and procedures the biotech corporations were capable of inflicting on the innocent for the sake of "science," and the images left her imagination fleeing to the darkest depths of her mind. With a feeble shrug, she made another attempt to break out of her bonds, but only succeeded in bringing up blood from her lungs as her body refused to obey any more of her commands. She choked and spat on fluids as her futile efforts were made obvious to her.
The first figure glided back to Nara, bringing its featureless head inches away from her face, its motives uncertain. Even though the specter appeared mechanical, she could sense a trace of life inside the robes, but of what origins she could not discern. A beam of light suddenly projected from the being’s face, causing her to flinch as it blinded her, the light repeatedly sweeping over her features.
The phantom stepped away from her, the flickers of blue light passed by once more. She couldn't tell for certain, but she could have sworn she saw the creature tilt its head to the side in confusion. The light scanned over her face several more times, shifting colors with each pass. Red, white, green. As if it was accessing multiple databases inside its supernatural mind.
The fuck, she thought. They have no idea what I am.
A metallic shriek drilled through the air as her captor suddenly uncoiled the bindings enveloping her. She dropped messily on the ground with a squishy thud as her injuries leaked openly. The claw released its grasp of her, tearing a chunk of flesh as it receded back into the figure’s cloak. She laid there in a shaking pool of sweat and blood as the robed figures withdrew, vanishing from the horizon.
She forced herself to sit up; there was no time to consider the situation. The kid’s life was still in danger, and it was miles until she could reach her home. She shakily stood up and staggered over to him, but as fatigue overwhelmed her, she tripped on her defiant ankle and sank to her knees. Her back screamed out at her, the throbbing cracks in her plating reminding her of the crash landing into the ground. Her brutalized shoulder was draining heavily, and she could see her bone shining brightly through the furrows the claw had hollowed out of her.
I can make it back, she thought, but the scavengers would be a problem. Always looking for easy prey.
An image of the ghastly creatures flashed through her brain again. She had no idea how the hell she got so lucky. She considered hiding it all from Garrett, sparing him the traumatizing details, as she was uncertain how well he could handle it.
Thoughts racing everywhere and nowhere clouded her mind, and the pain tearing at every part of her was too great. For once in her life, she had to admit she needed help.
She raised her communicator up with a trembling arm.
“Sentinel,” She breathed. “I’m in trouble.”
“Where are you? What happened?” He questioned, the concern overthrowing his usual calm demeanor.
“I saw the face of Death,” She managed to speak in her native voice before collapsing onto the pavement.
“Nara!” The voice shouted from her wrist. “Hark! Get a squad over to Pyral Street in the Gorge! Now!”

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