Monday, April 17, 2017

Chapter 5

Kilgor crunched down on the Life Savor, chewed it into bits, swallowed, then popped in another, looping the tip of his dark-splotched tongue in its center while shedding the vibration of Dolomedes and followed Gorrack into an office. 
The bald guy with a long sliver of jagged chrome sliced down the right side of his cheek bone swiveled around. And smiled.
“Good to see you again, Kilgor. Please,” he gestured a palm of five servo digits in chrome “sit.”
The walls in the room were blank, save for an abstract painting with four hooded figures riding inside transparent spheres in the sky. On the ground a circle of black figures kneeled, bowed their heads, and reached their arms and hands to the sky. Kilgor recognized the figures from his studies: The Metempsychosis Quartet, aka The Reckoning, aka the gods of the Shift, aka the new gods of the apocalypse.
The chair creaked as Clawdious leaned back and steepled his digits. “How is everything going for you so far, Kilgor?”
“Very well.” Kilgor noticed the snow globe at the edge of Clawdious’ desk animate. 
“How’s training going?”
“Good. I’ve not only beaten the Darken clan, I’ve taken out the leader, Rosha Kuulu.” His lips pulled back, revealing his canines.
Clawdious beamed. “This makes me very happy. Your virtual training has progressed quicker than expected. Do you feel you have advanced? Do feel as if it is a…bore?”
Kilgor shrugged. 
“It’s okay to admit it, Kilgor. Gorrack can always write a separate program that will make  your fights more difficult. It would help you advance. Gods in spheres know you need it. You need to be trained the very best you can. When the time comes, Kilgor, you will have a very important job to do. Gorrack and I encourage you to improve.”
It wasn’t that Kilgor felt the programs had been less of a challenge. It’s just he wished he could move forward and train hands-on. There was no doubt his neurotransmitters excelled. His brain swallowed knowledge by the buckets. Lately he treated the virtuals as games. He loved them. Hells, he couldn’t have been out of the vat more than two months already and his size had rocketed due to Gorrack’s Rapid Aging program—it also came with his focus as a trained killer. 
In the virtuals he had adopted a precognition, knowing his enemies next move. How he knew it, he did not know. Had Gorrack installed new software in his HeadKase? A precog app?
Hard to say.
Would he have the precog when confronted in a real fight? 
Still hard to say.
Most of the time he amused himself by allowing the gunslinger to draw first while he dropped to one knee and blasted the guy’s leg off. Or waited for the guard to round the corner where the innocent couple stood and back hand him with a fist, smashing his nose. 
“The more you improve, the quicker we’ll place you in your job. You don’t want to stay in the virtual world forever, right?” Clawdious raised a pencil-thin eyebrow that wasn’t there.
Kilgor shook his head.
“Good. The real challenge you’ll face will be in Ozarium,” he pointed a shiny digit, “beyond those walls. When you are ready, when you believe you have done all you can and you feel your skills are ready for use on the next level, please, let me know. We want you to feel confident and more than ready for the job. I truly believe you will be the very best bounty hunter in Westersphere. You will be our savior, Kilgor.”

#

“Nimbus, if you save us, I’ll spend the extra BodyKredd and update your CPU to eight point oh. I promise.” Kilgor clawed the arm rests and ground his canines as the craft shook.
I…am….working…on it….sir.
The bouncer jerked to the side, whipping Kilgor’s head and body in the same direction. Thank the gods for seat belts. “Try harder!”
The shriek from the metal beast returned, this time scraping the outside shell of the craft, forcing it into a spin. Warning lights chimed and red and yellow colors flashed over Kilgor’s dark skinned face. 
“Nimbus! Get the situation under control!”
Yes, s—
The seat belts squeezed Kilgor against the cushion as the bouncer rumbled and shook. A square piece of metal peeled off the bottom and shot into the air. Cracks carved into the windshield and the view switched from sky to ground as they nosedived.
Warning lights switched from a pleasant ear-friendly chime to an excruciating ear-piercing pain, bouncing off the walls in the cabin. Yellow lights became blurs. Red lights became liquid. Green ones were ooze. All the colors were bleeding together in Kilgor’s vision as the atmosphere inside shimmied, making him see double and then triple.
The turbines screamed as Nimbus tried reversing them.
The creature’s shriek overpowered the craft, shooting multicolored beams, giving it a swift punch in the side, forcing the craft to rocket sideways end over end.
“Nimbus! Get a hold on…this…thing!”
Nimbus’ reply severed in mid-sentence when another replaced the onboard computer in a monotone verbal:
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
Crap! “Nimbus! You still with me?”
A pulse rippled through the craft, shaking it, making the windshield crack more.
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
“How the hells am I supposed to reboot this mess? Nimbus! you still w—”
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
Chimes screamed.
ABORT SEQUENCE INITIATED IN FIVE
The outside world was in multiple pieces, some demented abstraction, while trying to look through the multi-cracked windshield.
FOUR
Kilgor dug his claws into the fabric of the arm rests.
THREE
The seat belts squeezed more, making him gasp.
TWO
Kilgor snapped his eyelids shut as the horror inside slowly silenced.
ONE
The roof of the craft exploded, sending huge pieces of metal flying. 
ZERO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE OF THIS CRAFT. PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO VIEW OUR VIRTUAL CATALOG OF PARTS AND OUR LATEST EMERGENCY EVACUATIONS.

GOODBYE.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chapter 4

Kilgor located the icon, mentally slid the bar to the left.
Gorrack’s mouth moved but no words came out.
Kilgor slid the bar to the right.
<—id you figure it out?>
They stood in an octagon-shaped room with a very loud, very large machine occupying the center of the floor. Appendages stretched from the creature and at each of its eight endings a pair of robots picked off metal parts from the conveyer and snapped them onto a small figure. Once it was complete, the figure was placed on a cart and shoved into another room through a thick plastic curtain.
Above their heads an ouroboros-shaped metal walkway with railing ran the length of the room, hooked to the cavern walls. 
Dr. Livingston had installed Kilgor’s HeadKase. Nice guy. A genius in Kilgor’s book. He could figure out damn near anything. But having issues keeping the robots alive and working? That’s hard to believe. 
Kilgor didn’t admit it either, using Splice to divide his thoughts from the mental verbals he used to speak to Gorrack.
Gorrack explained.
Gorrack gestured with an open palm,
Kilgor shook his head.
Kilgor followed Gorrack through a spot on the wall and into another room. The spot spiraled shut, shutting out Dolomedes. Ten beds were set up and occupying each were children strapped down while an IV and bag fed their jugular’s. Their eyes were shut. Their grey skin stretched over their bones and their fingers were long, sleek, with fingernails as sharp as razors.
“These are the only children from Ozarium we’ve been able to capture,” Gorrack said, switching off his telekinetic, “The IV is feeding them a pre-Shift drug called Rohypnol to keep them knocked out and dormant. The drug used to be used for sever insomnia. It’s a central nervous system depressant that creates a general slowing down of their brain activity. Too much of the drug—which in this case we induce because of how dangerous they are—slows their heart rate and lowers their blood pressure.
“The kids are scheduled for HeadKase installments from Dr. Livingston. That way, they can be controlled. When Clawdious, Kimberly and Barrabas collected them, going out on their own, I wish I could say they returned unscathed. These kids hurt them pretty bad. Notice Barrabas’ chrome teeth and Kimberly’s optical where her right eye used to sit?”
Kilgor nodded. Kimberly’s eye always gave him the creeps. It didn’t move with her other,  as if the servo had a mind of its own, rolling in its socket, focussed on something else when you spoke to her. 
“You don’t even have to ask what happened to Clawdious. Think about how he looks. Those kids tore the hells out of him.”
Gorrack was right. Clawdious’ hands had to be replaced. 
“If Kimberly and Barrabas hadn’t been there, the bald guy would be long dead.”
“When we created you, Kilgor, we made sure you would be fit for this job. We needed to develop an individual nearly super-human to take the punishment these creatures you see in the beds would dish out. Your stamina and strength and knowledge how to perform your job has been infused into you. You will do well in your job, Kilgor. I guarantee it.”

#

Wisps of smoke leaked into the room and curled around one of the broken bodies. Shapes of tiny hands lifted the clone to her feet. Ghosts of Maximus Slader’s dead children had come to help. The first to rise was a girl whose neck was twisted and angled wrong. Ripples ran the course of her neck and deep canals had burrowed where the skin had failed to rip. The girl’s pupil hid halfway inside the lid, half out, as if peeking over a straight edge; while the other eye rolled back and forth in the socket until focussing on Kilgor.
The corners of the girl’s lips twitched, then she stretched a smile.
The second broken body rose. The head wobbled on the shoulders, unable to stay balanced. But did not stave away her giggling.
Kilgor could hear bone scrape against bone.
The second body’s face was a frozen mask. She could only blink.
The third clone with the smashed face, wearing a mask of blood, her flesh shoved against bone, the cartilage in her nose defunct, twitched her cheek and lifted the corner of her mouth as she rose. 
And the fourth had managed to rise, save for its right leg bent in the wrong direction. She pulled back her split lips, showed her ivory points, and dragged her leg as she took a step forward.
Sir, I’m detecting something. 
“What is it? Because I may know what it is.”
It appears the building is restructuring itself.
“Perhaps I do not. Did you say restructuring itself?”
Yes, sir. In better terms, the building is alive. I cannot pinpoint the algorithm and stop the program. Your chance of survival is under fifty percent if you do not leave this second.
“Don’t have to tell me twice, buddy. Time to go.” 
Kilgor slipped another wintergreen Life Savor between his lips and slipped past the walking dead and dove into the hallway and rocketed off. The walls were indeed alive. A storm deep inside brewed. Buzzing. Humming. Making the floor vibrate under Kilgor’s boots as he ran. He had to take time to slap a claw on the wall to prevent a crash and a broken nose, smacking the floor face-first.
Sleet fell in sheets, the sound swelling around him as he climbed the stairs, sometimes in twos.  
We….see…..you….goblin badger….
No escape….from….us…
The voice fused together hundreds of vocal cords of children, all speaking the warning in unison, each with their own sociopathic intrigue. Some took turns linking into the telekinetic option of Kilgor’s HeadKase: 
<Us….>
<Goblin badger!>
The sleet behind the walls smashed, blocking out the voices as Kilgor ran down the hall to the doorway. Behind him, the skin on the walls began to split, pouring forth chrome servo bugs. Rapidly climbing over each other as they swarmed. 
The exit spiraled shut.
And Kilgor blasted it open with his gun.
A hand grabbed his ankle as he stepped onto the roof.
The corpse’s face peered up at him. Cackled. The hole in the skull showed the mutant worms squirming. They scattered from the corpse’s battered clothing and skeleton and formed a figure sheathed with moving worm flesh.
“Open the door, Nimbus.”
Yes, sir.
The pneumatic door whispered shut.
“Juice the turbines, buddy, and let’s get the hells outta here.” As soon as Kilgor strapped in the seat craft slid sideways, toward the blown door of the building.
The roof had slanted.
And the invertebrate figure developed in worm flesh grew in size and reached out both hands to make purchase on the craft.
However.…
The nose of the bouncer whipped around in time for it to connect and launch the figure off the building. Kilgor caught sight of the swarm of chrome servos pouring out of the doorway, fusing together, shaping into a black oval. Multiple spots rippled across the surface and faces of the children appeared, giggling, winking. The collage expanded and the multiplicity of the children opened their mouths, serrated ivory points chewing the air.
“Get us the hells out, Nimbus!”
The turbines shrieked as the bouncer launched into the sky, scorching huge face of the children. Their expressions scowled and the face returned inside the doorway.
The building shimmered.
And shook.
A relay spun and a long whirr stabbed the air. Glass windows shattered in an ocean wave on each of its four sides, crashing into the ground below. The frames bent inward, drowning in a pitch black darkness. A loud clank ricocheted off far away buildings as long arms pulling away from the sides of Slader Corp. The flat top of the building reformed and chrome bugs linked themselves together and shaped into a long beak with glowing red eyes. The structure shifted itself, transforming into a hunched over creature with long claws and a wide span of wings.
The face reared back at the sky, opened its beak and shrieked, shattering more windows on other buildings. It’s rage exhausted sound waves through the air, found the bouncer’s frame, grabbed hold and forced it a struggle to blast into the sky.

















Monday, March 20, 2017

Chapter 3

Several weeks after Kilgor shed the gel of the Womb an email arrived in his Temporal Lobe Inbox, the virtual mailbox in his HeadKase system. He mentally clicked it open, gave it a read, and clicked on the link and found an invite.
He stood in front of an odd-looking shape.
“Please, come on in, Kilgor,” a voice invited.
Kilgor pursed his lips and furrowed his thick brows.  
“Oh, sorry, you have to twist the doorknob. I’m still a bit old fashioned, decorating my block of the hall with vintage pre-Shift oddities.”
Kilgor twisted the funny-looking device. 
Inside, four light grey walls trapped a window with a view of four yard gnomes standing on a green lawn, a few pictures on the wall he did not recognize, and a tall plant with only two green leaves, quite wide, and a large mouth shaped like a clam. An oak desk occupied the middle of the room and a young man sat in a chair behind it. 
“I’m Vincent Gorrack, Kilgor. I work for Gorph Incorporated.” The man stood up, held out his hand.
Kilgor shook it.
“Now,” Gorrack sat back down, smoothed his white shirt worn under a business suit, and swiped the screen of a Recog tablet with one digit, “since you are aging well with our Rapid Aging program, making you equal to a thirteen year old human already in less than three weeks, you’re ready to further your studies. The program will only add age to you until you are twenty-one, then your body should continue to grow at a normal rate.” 
He grinned and reached into his right pocket.
“Can I interest you in a Life Savor?”
Kilgor cocked his head.
“It’s a vintage candy I persuaded Mr. Gorph to reproduce. It’s quite refreshing.” He beamed. “Here.”
Kilgor tore open the clear plastic and slipped it between his lips. 
Gorrack didn’t lie about the refreshing part.
“I also have Jolt coffee brewing over there,” Gorrack hooked a thumb in the corner of the room, “if you’d like a cup.” 
Kilgor took Gorrack up on the offer and poured a cup. Jolt had already became an instant love for him.   
“Please, sit down,” Gorrack gestured with an open palm. On the corner of his desk was an animated snow globe. Laughter played at the lips of a small girl in a dress while a small robot rattled after her. They ran in circles. “Today were gonna download some files into that noggin of yours. Don’t worry, just sit there, and you won’t feel a thing, kiddo. I’m plugging you into the virtual connecting the signal to your HeadKase; so, buckle up.”
Kilgor looked at his lap and the sides of the chair.
Gorrack chuckled. “It’s just an expression, Kilgor, meaning to get ready.”
“Oh,” Kilgor replied.
Gorrack’s finger hovered over the Recog.
“Ready?”
Kilgor nodded.
“And here we go…” Gorrack’s beaming face and body burst into atoms and melted away, snatching away the room, until transforming onto a deserted plain. A small breeze ruffled Kilgor’s hair and a sun hid itself behind the clouds.  
He felt a tap on the top of his head and had the sudden urge to do wu-jea (woo-gee-ah), a martial art form taught to a ninja clan called the Darkens. His nostrils flared. He started off on one foot forward, one foot back, and chopped the air with one claw, chopped the air with his other, then flipped upside down, landed on the ground in a squat, swept one leg around, spinning as of on an axis, leapt into the air, kicked, and landed on the ground, hands steepled, head up. 
With a sudden move he clawed the air, spun around, kicked sideways, kicked a roundhouse, leaped in the air once more, flipped end over end, and landed in the same position as before. 
He blinked and was surrounded by a ninja clan.
They attacked, one after the other.
Kilgor fended each one off, sending them tumbling.
Sometimes only using one strike of his hand.
Sometimes only using a sidekick.
Another tap on his head developed his skill as a gunslinger. The scenery morphed into a dirt street with shops flanked on both sides, including a corral, a blacksmith, and a saloon.
A figure in a black leather vest, a long sleeve white button up shirt, a black scarf tied around the neck, a black hat and wearing boots with spurs faced Kilgor standing twenty paces away. 
Long, calloused fingers hovered over the grip of a large pistol. 
Kilgor caught the twitch of the man’s eye and knew he was going for the gun. Kilgor drew his own and fired. The figure’s body crashed the dirt, causing a cloud of dirt to puff around the gunfighter. 
Kilgor spun his gun around one long finger and slipped it back in his holster.
A third tap on top of the skull delivered Kilgor into a small room where he kneeled and peeked a green eye through the scope on a rifle atop a tripod.
The target walked out of a hotel across the street.
And Kilgor’s shot split his skull in two.
Brain matter splattered the woman on his arm and one of the two body guards.
Before the guard saw Kilgor, he ducked out of view and ran out of the door to the room.
He descended the stairs by the twos. By the time he reached the third floor the victim’s body guard met him in the hallway, his semi-automatic out, already spraying bullets, chewing into the plaster walls as Kilgor slipped into a room.
The only escape was a window.
Kilgor burst through the glass and landed on a fire escape and climbed down the steel ladder.
The body guard’s thick neck stuck out of the shattered window, then climbed out.
Kilgor launched himself into an alley and rocketed off.
Bullets scrambled after him.
He took a corner too fast and slipped on wet pavement and crashed into a couple holding hands.
He helped the couple stand but their bodies jerked and flailed, their expressions sagging as they fell forward on Kilgor. 
The woman’s skull blew apart, somehow preventing Kilgor’s eye from eating a bullet. 
While the guard’s semi-automatic barked again Kilgor had no other way of defending himself but to use the woman’s corpse for a shield.
Her flesh ripped apart in stages. Skin, blood, bone fragments, a severed hand.
This gave Kilgor enough time to defend.
He launched the body at the guard and dropped on his side, pulled a handgun from his ankle holster, fired once.
And once only.
The bullet found its mark, stabbing the heart of his pursuer.
And
Kilgor blinked.
He was back in the room sitting across from Gorrack.
The gnomes had changed their positions on the lawn. 
“Well done, Kilgor. Those were simple simulations. They are beginner stages and will become harder the more you do them. I’ve downloaded the program and filed it on your HK desktop—I mean facetop, sorry—called Gorrack’s Training. You are required to practice each and every day. Each one is in segments. Each simulation will vary from the last and will require practice and skill no matter how many times you beat the computer. Because it’ll throw you curve balls. It’ll throw you grenades. It’ll throw you heat seeking nuclear missiles. Each time it’ll challenge you. 
“Practice makes perfect, Kilgor. When we think you are ready, you will begin your new job. You will continue to improve, kiddo, I assure you that.”  

#

The first little girl in her blue dress launched herself in the air and dug her claws in Kilgor’s face and tried ripping it off. 
She opened her mouth to take a bite out of Kilgor’s face and he peeled the girl off by grabbing her blonde hair and launching the kid into the nearest wall. 
The kid rose on all fours, hissed. 
Five circled him, lips pulled away, showing their ivory choppers, and shaping their hands into claws. They took turns in another chant:
“Eenie…”
“….Meenie.”
“Miney….”
“….Mo.”
“Catch…”
“….A”
“Goblin….”
“…..Badger.”
“By….”
“…..The.”
“Toe….”
“…..If he.”
“Hollars…”
“….Don’t.”
“Let….”
“….Him.”
“Go…”
“….Make.”
“Him….”
“….Pay.”
“Because…”
“….We”
“Wish….”
“….To.”
“See…”
“…..Him”
“BLEED!!”
Another girl launched herself at the goblin badger. He fought her off by grabbing her  face and throwing her small body against the wall. The next one blindsided him and dug her claws into his side and chomped down with her ivories.
Kilgor winced at the pain, grabbed the girl around the throat using one claw, and squeezed. She gasped and hissed and thrashed and tried to peel Kilgor’s long fingers off until her expression deadened.  
Kilgor dropped her body and it slumped to the floor. 
The next child clone climbed on his back and wrapped her arm around his throat.
Kilgor gagged.
She ground her feet in his back for leverage while pulling his head backward, giggling.  
Kilgor lost his balance and crashed the floor face down.
The girl used her feet again, assisting her hands in the attempt to try and snap his spine. 
Kilgor folded his body, flipped over on his back, making the girl’s body shift and used the back of his dark-skinned head to smash the girl’s nose. Twice.
Dazed, but not giving up, she looped three fingers in his mouth and tried stretching his lips. She hissed, spraying bone and black blood.
Kilgor planted one clawed palm on the floor, used his other to reach back and grab the girl and throw her to the side.
Words bubbled in her mouth full of blood: “No fair! You’re cheating! Not supposed to fight back!”
She cackled.
And attacked again.
This time climbing Kilgor’s six-foot-five stocky frame like a spider and yanked a hand full of hair out of his head. She used her other hand to scrape fingernails across his face.
Three times.
Then a fourth.
Kilgor pulled the girl off, backslapped the demonic child over Maximus’ desk. The girl slipped head-first over and slammed the floor.
Something crackled within her skin.
A clamp grasped Kilgor’s ankle.
He looked down to see the girl who he thought he thought was dead gazing up at him with one eyeball half rolled inside the head, half out, and half a grin stretched, showing her serrated teeth. She failed trying to shift her broken neck, a fail at stretching the flesh, to focus her good eye better.
“You…don’t…play…fair!”
Kilgor punched the face and kicked the body off.
Two clones attacked at once, railroading him as if they were skin-covered trains, taking out his legs. Once flat on his back, they straddled him, one pressed down on his throat, the other across his waist.  A small fists began punching him in the face while the other clasped fingers around his throat.
Kilgor thrashed. He flailed his limbs and defended himself, slapping the one away, until a sting sliced at his gut.
The one straddled on his waist had grown long claws.
The child giggled.
The girl made another swipe with her sharp claws, cleaving away a sliver of Kilgor’s dark suit, finding the unprotected dark skin beneath.  
Kilgor arched his spine, pulled his legs toward his face, brought the child’s face close. The small mouth snapped repetitively like a rabid dog. Saliva sprayed Kilgor’s chest. He crossed his ankles in a scissor-like fashion, trapping the small cranium, and leaned forward. Squat over the face, he stomped on it.
Over.
And over.
Until feeling his boot smash through the skull.
The body still alive, flailed, reaching a claw to make a Kilgor purchase, only able to scrape the floor with its fingernails.
 Kilgor took a leap in the air, smashed the chest.
The body did not move.
Kilgor backed up, looked at the room. Blood and small broken bodies.
He rubbed a claw over his face, felt wetness. He bled from the girl clawing his face. His gut didn’t look bad, only a long scrape.
“Nimbus. Have you tracked Maximus yet?”
Yes, sir. Maximus Slader has slipped into the Zaphnurr Phase. Luckily I have been able to keep track on him. but not for long. The further he travels in the time slip, the less of a signal I receive. 
“Well done, buddy. We’ll catch up to him. He’s not getting away this time. Juice the turbines, I’m coming out.”
Yes, sir.
Kilgor turned to face the door and heard a scrape behind him.
Each of the bodies who he presumed dead, began to rise. 

And, the sound he heard previously, sleet hammering metal behind the walls, crashed into the hallway.