By Iron and By Blood

By Iron and By Blood

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

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Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

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Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 05, 2017

Reads: 66

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 05, 2017

A A A

A A A

Paint meanders across the walls. Light refracts through fogged visors. Deep breaths are taken. A crackle of radio passes over deaf ears.

A rifle is raised, and, in a flash of movement, metal picks itself up and charges across a vortex of colours.

Iron collides with concrete in silence; voices echo in quiet halls; gunshots reverberate through murky waters. A robotic body, pinned down by gunfire behind a series of heavy boxes, pokes a head out and surveys the scene.

A crossroads of corridors lays the land like a great X, with caskets in between each aisle. A mast, flag atop it, stands in the middle; four groups, each painted a different colour, crouch in a standoff around it. Paint flies, and the previously white cloth is now an unidentifiable flutter in the wind.

The walls surrounding them are corrugated iron, like that of a warehouse. Every hitch of the structure is visible through the rush of adrenaline assaulting the character. The building itself is old, and rather worn down by time and the elements, but still it stands, tall and proud and metallic. Large timbered boxes are stacked sporadically throughout the compound, their wooden frames riddled with bruises and spattered with smatterings of paint.

A ball of paint whizzes above the head at high speeds, quickly followed by another; the mechanical skull drops before the shooter can find his mark. Behind the cover of solid oak, a pair of eyes close within the machine, and the entity inside detaches itself from reality.

A small girl plays in the enclaves of a road. She is not much more than two. Street lamps and neon lights flash in every corner of the avenue, turning the night bright with a brilliance stronger than the sun. Dust attaches itself to everything. The buildings around her are dilapidated and destroyed, seemingly hundreds of years old.

The trails of fire still burn in her eyes.

The bursts of destruction still resonate in the desolate streets.

A woman, crouching in a defensive position around the girl, lays still. The small girl, oblivious to the horrors, toys with her mother's hair. She assumes she is only sleeping. She does not see the piece of shrapnel sitting in the back of her skull.

The lights, one by one, flicker out. The little girl cowers next to her mother in the darkness, fearful of the shadows; soon, she will wake up, and everything will be okay.

But then there are hands grabbing her, and she fights, but they are too strong. They are cold and hard, and the face she finds herself looking at is big and grey. There is a small shiny thing in the middle of the face, and she joins the dots between it and daddy's helmet.

She shouts in glee, and hugs the grey beast. She hears a noise, looks up. The grey thing has disappeared. In its stead, another face, pink this time. His eyes are pulled to the sides slightly. It is not daddy's face. She detaches from him, confused, and he turns to look at three other mechanical monsters. After a series of words, the creature swivels completely and begins to walk away, her in hand. When she sees her mother getting further and further away, she cries, hits, screams, desperate to return to her.

He shares no such compunction.

He does not turn back.

Eyes open, and reality snaps back with a jolt. The silver helmet hides away tears of sorrow as newfound sound erupts in a cacophony of devastation. She raises her body, back to the boxes, and lets out a ferocious battle cry. The pain of memories mixes with an instinctive rage, and she vaults over the crates behind her in a split second.

A rifle appears in her hands and paint hits one, two, three, four other machines before she reaches the other side. The entirety of the yellow team is down. Those coloured red give a quick cheer, but return to firing when stray paint assaults one's face.

From her vantage point, she sees a green form sneaking around behind the blue group. She climbs up and settles down abaft a pair of boxes, flipping a scope atop her rifle. The warehouse is big enough (maybe fifty metres) to warrant the extra accuracy, but not so big as to necessitate a lengthy aiming process. A quick sight down the barrel, and the rifle rocks backwards with one fluid motion as a blue machine is struck and flips rearwards. A congratulatory shout echoes through the radio. Other words are traded, but she pays them no heed.

The viridian rogue fires off three blasts from a pistol in his hand, and the blue team is out. She aims again, this time at the green machine, and lets loose a barrage of shots. None hit; some clang off of a metal casket behind him, others splash against the floor and the walls.

A brief exchanging of coloured bullets paints the whole venue red and green before a paintball clips the opposing competitor's visor. He falls back, and she swivels her barrel to the remaining three greens.

Her expression remains flat as she wipes out every last one of them.

   * * *

Three days earlier, Sophia Tengu had received a letter of admission to the new WFIN Mech Corps; she remembered the silky feel of the paper, the contrastingly rough smell of the still-wet ink. She showed the letter to her brothers and sisters the second she saw it. Of course, they weren't really siblings, but the orphanage decided that it would bring everyone closer together if they thought of themselves as family. She was the eldest child there; she shouldn't have even been there anymore, with almost twenty years under the belt.

A day later, with two colossal bags in the hold and her small pocket knife in a plastic bag in the cockpit, she was on the plane to England, where she would begin her official military training. She fought a brief dispute with her emotions on the flight, but that was one thing she excelled in. So she forgot the long meandering halls, and the beautiful, ornate bookshelves that stood as high as the clouds. She forgot the hardback tomes that she would spend days poring over. She forgot the insurmountable amount of time she had spent playing, and laughing, and crying and developing and, oh God. she was crying. Damnit, Sophia! she thought to herself. Be strong; this isn't what they wanted.

The flight was long, crossing over North America, the Pacific and the Atlantic to avoid the MCU; she wasted time playing games on her phone or staring out at the pink, wispy clouds that looked, for want of a better simile, exactly like floating cotton candy in the light of a new dawn. She would've preferred to carve out one of her wooden figurines, but a knife in a plane was not the best of ideas.

On the other hand, the landing was rough and tumultuous - a storm had gripped the island's early morning in its smoky tendrils, and didn't seem to want to let go. It appeared to be evening already. Rain lashed at the passengers as they stepped out from the plane. Blue-white forks cackled and danced to the primal drums of war in an internecine bid to reduce all to rubble. A tremendous roar shook the airport to its very core.

Sophia ran across the poorly lit landing strip alongside her fellow passengers, hands up to protect her from the biting cold and the rain. She soon barged through the doors of the airport proper, dripping wet and exhausted. She looked around for one of those boards people put up to show who they're waiting for; eventually, her eyes strayed upon a thin man in an impeccable black suit and sunglasses holding a cardboard slab with her name on it.

He was tall, almost six and a half feet, and had a slick mop of thin black hair that appeared to have been combed several times too many. He obviously got out enough, and had a tan above his otherwise pale skin that put even the French and the Italian to shame.

From this distance, she couldn't pick out much, but she knew he was in his early 20s, maybe 24; she could tell he was also, evidently, packing firepower, from the bulge in the right pocket of a deep brown trenchcoat. How, inside an airport, she only wished she knew. As she neared him, he stuck a hand up in greeting. She nodded back.

When he spoke, his mouth moved very little from the perpetual smile that had nestled itself there. His nose was a bit bigger than everyone else's, most likely a consequence of Italian descendance, but he spoke with a flat tone - it wasn't an accent, as such; rather, the complete lack of one. "Cadet Tengu? I'd like to be the first to congratulate you in being accepted into our, admittedly, rather elitist group." She liked him already.

"Thank you. I greatly appreciate it." She was grateful for the frequent English lessons she had taken for the past seven years.

Thunder boomed outside; the pair took the walk to the doors at a brisk pace. "So..." he began, "Have you received any formal training at all?" Obviously, he already knew that - to be accepted, one's file required a thorough perusal, and weeks of decision-making was undertaken to remove the weeds from a garden that included Italy, Spain and France alongside the mighty Japan.

She answered anyway. "The school I went to had mandatory karate lessons." She slipped past an entwined couple in the hallway. The man struggled a bit less due to his lither frame, and found a gap and followed suit before the moment became embarrassing. "I also took a few courses in shooting practice.”

“Good. We wouldn't want your training to go awry so soon into your programme,“ he added, with a slight smile.

Another explosion of noise rockets through the walls; this one sounds far closer, different than the other, but all too familiar. A light goes out. People scream as glass tinkles onto the ground; several other blasts peal out across the white halls, and three more bulbs shatter. Almost pitch darkness engulfs the airport, and soon guttural cries echo in the vast halls, mostly to do with currency or death. A stampede begins, quickly ending when it becomes apparent in the infrequent bursts of light that the people barricading the exits wield assault rifles.

Sophia looks to her right. The man is no longer there. A commotion near the entrance grabs her attention – the two armed guards there seem to be dead. She feels rather than sees the man return, as if he had not been there until then, before he took her arm and led her away.

“What? How?” She glanced around, befuddled. Wordlessly, he half-dragged, half-carries her to his car outside amidst the rampaging hordes of frightened civilians.

   * * *

The drive from Heathrow to Cambridge was drawn-out and quiet. Rain pursued them relentlessly down the highway, refusing to let up as they traversed the rolling plains and forests of the famed British countryside, seen from the viewpoint her companion's black Mercedes; in tandem with a beam of light breaking through the barrier of clouds and turning the rain into heavenly piss, the man spoke out, claiming they'd arrived at the pit stop.

The man turned right off of the road, just before a crossroads littered with the sound of horns, into a small parking lot. Robin Hood, the green sign said. A broken plank of wood lay beneath it, with what looked like 'Eating Inn' written in bold, with some sort of offer for every Wednesday. She mentioned this to the man as they entered; "The name of this place changes often. Whenever the owner gets kicked out, it flips. I come down here every time a new recruit flies in from overseas." He shrugged, care-free. "I like the food. It's very English."

Opening a pair of sturdy-looking oak doors, they stood at one of the small, pew-like stands that was found in many a restaurant. Tables populated the space between them, a bar to their immediate right, and a side entrance farther down in the same direction. A waiter soon came to preach; his shirt was tucked in slightly less than it should've been, she noted, and his tie was completely off. Looking down sneakily, she also saw that he wore pink socks under black hightops today. Not a good combination, the comparatively picayune fashionable side of her thought, before the rest of her shut it up.

The man with horrible fashion sense led them to a free table. Sophia looked around: nice, quaint atmosphere, with the wooden beams spanning the roof covered in incredibly fine chandeliers and the seats each laden with plush. It was very much a posh, rich man's restaurant. Nothing like the ones she'd been to, back in Kyoto. She took the seat facing the door, and her companion sat opposite her.

The man flagged down the waiter. "So. I assume you have questions?" he asked, directed to Sophia.

"Yes - who are you, what happened at the airport, and how did you do... whatever that was?"

The fashionless man gave them menus and asked for drinks. They took two waters. "For now, you can call me Agent 9. The airport? Well, it's complicated. There's a gang - The Street Clackers; lives close to Heathrow, extorts money every so often. All attempts of removing them have proved unsuccessful. And I did nothing extraordinary - I was simply quick, quiet and efficient as soon as I recognised a threat; so much so that you evidently didn't notice."

She gave him a look of false comprehension and turned her attention to the menu. It was a double fold-out, a relic from the olden days – someone wanted to protect the heritage, it seemed. Online menus were more often used in favour of hard paper these days. To the right of the first page, an inviting plate, red bordering the rim, was centrepiece in a picture; a resplendent cutlet sat in its middle, and the edges were piled high with thick wedges. A slice of tomato was nestled amongst sweet green leaves and the more bitter red variant. Crisp red wine, a deep burgundy that drew the eye alluringly, rested peacefully just beyond the dish in a fine goblet, with the bottle not far behind.

She skimmed past a selection of delectable dishes, each of rather excellent taste - and each with their own beautifully worded description. Eventually settling on a Caesar Salad, she put hers down and looked to Agent 9. He was deep in thought, tongue out slightly, like a worm escaping from the 
round after a Monsoon's daily downpour, when the dew is still forming and the smell of moist leaves is beginning to appear.

She took a few attempts at catching his eyes, but, after a while, gave up and tapped twice, in quick succession, onto the spine of his fold-out. The spell shattered, and he blinked a few times before setting the menu aside; "What's up?" he inquired.

"You, um, said that several attempts to remove the gang, Street Clackers, had been made. Why were none successful?"

"Well, over the past thirty years as I see it, gangs started popping up all over England. They became almost, uh, commonplace. So much so, in fact, that we couldn't do a thing about all of them. We actually relied on some of the smaller ones to take care of a big one in London. Now we just let local enforcement units deal with them, since most of our forces are going into Asia."

Her head bobbed up and down rather jitterily. He smiled - well, the skin around his face pulled back slightly more than it already was, then settled back into the odd perma-smile - and picked the menu up again. He was rather graceful, she noted; everything he did was done with a certain eloquence, like a dancer that wasn't quite aware that the song was over.

He closed the fold-out with a snap, startling Sophia out of her speculation, and called for the waiter. Once they'd ordered meals – the salad and a Welsh Rarebit – and returned their menus, they turned inwards and began to wait. The man, his hands steepled into a cathedral roof and forehead creased in deep thought, had said nothing for almost twenty minutes.

Rich air washed through her with the smell of food as she breathed in to calm the tumult of feelings that raced around within the confines of her head, each vying for her utmost attention. Joy, apprehension, sadness, confusion, and others beside. She gave them nothing - if you let your emotions in, they took control, scrambled the brain. Emotions were for the weak of mind.

A moist breeze blew in with the opening of the door. The first customer since they'd arrived burst through the double doors of the main entrance, and she leaned out slightly to look. Closing and lowering a black umbrella revealed a ruffled brown Sherlock cap atop a hairless head. His figure was rather rotund, and his lips moved in a mumble as he went about his duties; from this distance, she couldn't quite catch what had been said.

A small, rectangular bulge stood to attention in the deep left pocket of his heavy-duty coat. It was not so much earth as rock brown (a noticeably lighter hue, with other colours sneakily mixed in), and had no hood - other than that, and a few irritating stains, no other distinguishing marks could be seen. His shoes, on the other hand, were obviously well worn, and had been repaired DIY-style more than once at least. His general appearance suggested the very traditional, down-to-earth pensioner, but then she caught his eyes.

So blue the oceans would be jealous, they flitted around like a startled deer, soaking in every detail; it was not, however, out of fear - his gaze held no fright, but a morbid curiosity emanated from their deep ultramarine, as did vast wisdom. This was not the sort of man to trifle with.

He walked to the pew, as they had done. A small girl, dressed in proper attire, attended him. After a minute's wait, he was led to a table at the very back; as he passed, he made no attempt to even acknowledge Sophia - she bore holes into the back of his skull until he left her field of view. When she turned back, however, a blocky envelope had been left on her table. Two rectangles with one mirrored slanting end were joined to a thin bar that was almost invisible underneath the strangely dirt-like paper. That was then connected to a long, thin, vertically standing arrowhead.

She reached out for the paper, but felt a smack across the skin; she looked up, yanking her hand back, but her friend had not moved. She kept an eye on his hands as she stuck her own out again. There was a slight blur, and pain cracked across her skin like a whip through the air.

He opened his eyes and took the envelope. Tearing the seal and prying apart the lip revealed a small weapon she had seen before in a museum back in Kyoto - a Katar. Albeit, a strange one. The handle was of red plastic, the paint so fresh it stuck slightly to his hand, but the head was cold steel - not just frosty to the touch, but to be around. It sapped the heat from everything near it.

The two rectangles that protruded from the back made it like a space ship, with a vertically oriented head so thin you could cut yourself just by looking at it.

Strange runes were carved into the metal blade; they rolled across its brilliant surface in strangely evoking patterns. It hummed when he removed and it from its package.

She furrowed her brow and queried him upon it. In turn, after staring at it for a long while, spoke out, his toneless tongue rolling through words like the wind over hills. "It's my weapon; forged it myself. It was my finest work."

"So why did that guy give it to you all sneaky like?"

He was still enraptured by the glistening steel. "Because that's just how he works. Rather pointless, I know, but then the mystery would be gone completely."

"But wouldn't, say, a gun be more effective?"

"Not when you can see the pupils of the man you are about to kill."

A small woman arrived with their meals - her arms quivered slightly under the weight of the plates, and she traversed slowly around the tables in a bee dance of uncertainty. As the ceramic was set down with a heavy thump, and the scent of steak wafted into the air, Agent 9 (or whatever the hell his name was) broke from his glassy trance and shook his head before the pieces could put themselves back together.

That was the last time they spoke before crossing over to Scotland.


© Copyright 2017 Avery Greyfield. All rights reserved.

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