Tuonetar 3.3

My ears were cold.  It was such a funny thing, but here I was, sweating a river, and the breeze was making my ears cold.

I was thankful for the water recycling system built into my armor.  Most of what I was sweating out was going right back into my body.  At the same time, sweat wasn’t just water.  I was doing salt on occasion, trying to restore some electrolytes.  The paste and butter were doing a good job, too, but I knew that by the time I was done, I’d be losing some weight.

Stalking through the street like this was nerve wracking.  Our senses were all primed, desperate to pick up on any signs of danger before they came up.  If any wildling reared its ugly head, we had to find another way around without being detected, and that wasn’t always an easy task.

Not for the first time, I was envious of Sarah and her lack of a need of a weapon.

A stray thought hit me, an echo of a memory.  I motioned, and Sarah confirmed that she was willing to go wherever I wanted.  Good.  We could use this.

I stalked through the tall grass carefully, the sounds of fighting all around.  It was almost noon, and we’d been going off and on since a bit before the sun had come up.  Packs of wildlings were openly attacking other packs, forcing us to go around.  Every three hours or so, we stopped to take a quick fifteen minute nap — first Sarah, and then myself.  We needed to stay fresh, and with our nerves on edge, it was easy to get exhausted.

This part of the city was more dense, making the wildlings easier to encounter.  The good news was that with so many on the rampage, it would be harder to pick us out.  The downside was that, just like us, they’d be more on edge and alert.

I peeked over a short wall, and confirming that there wasn’t anything within line of sight, I easily vaulted it.  Parkour for the win.  I stood there patiently until Sarah did the same.  We hugged the wall, and then a nearby building as we made our way forward.  Some sort of main strip, though I was sure that there were a lot more of them with a city this size.  I remembered seeing it in the maps, but there was something tickling my brain from long ago.

I wished my memory was better.

But this building was it.  I peeked around the corner and, not seeing anything, I ducked around and into the doorway.  I tested the handle, and the door opened.  A small relief.  Scion had attacked after businesses had opened, and not everybody had believed the warnings about him.  It was anybody’s guess if it had ended lives or saved them in some cities.  Here, for sure, it had ended them.

We both ducked into the restaurant, but the dim lighting from the sun gave me a glimpse into something more.  With a purpose, I moved through, careful not to step on any droppings.  They were old droppings, though, with no smell of anything fresh.  With over a decade and a half, nests moved about as packs were wiped out, moved out of the city, or, apparently, killed by other packs.

More depressing were the piles of empty clothes that littered the place.

Depending on their intelligence, this wasn’t a bad place for a pack to set up a nest.  If whatever had been here could use the door, they’d be protected from anything that couldn’t.  The strip allowed them good hunting grounds, too.

I moved to a huge bay of interior windows.  Through the grime and poor lighting, I could barely make out machinery on the other side.  More of the half-formed memory stirred; this wasn’t just an eatery, it was also a bottling company.  I grinned, looking around.  Kitchen.

Sarah followed me, moving much more cautiously.  I couldn’t see her expression under her helmet, but I could imagine that she was looking at me like I’d gone crazy.  Maybe I had.  There were clothes lying on the ground in the kitchen, no doubt from the cooks, there was also a door with a knob instead of a handle.  Quickly, I pushed through and began to snoop around.

Sarah closed the door behind her before whispering.  “Alright, Bro, what are we after?”

“Sodium benzoate was popularly used in soft drinks.  There was argument about if it was safe or not, with a lot of people claiming it was toxic.”  I turned to look at her.  “I dunno if that’s true or not, to be honest.  Especially since it’s found in, like, apples and stuff.  But it was also used as a treatment for too much ammonia in the blood.  It isn’t made anymore that I’m aware of, but I figure if we can find a box that’s open, we can get some and sell it.”

Sarah crossed her arms over her chest, thinking.  “Alright.  But we don’t have a lot of pack space, so I gotta ask.  Where are we going to sell it to?”

I frowned.  Honestly, it wasn’t something that I had thought about.  “Well, Mother’s Hospital-”

“Has Bonesaw working for them,” she cut in quickly.  “And Jamie Rinke.  And a host of other doctors.  Even if Bonesaw can’t produce a drug, Nilbog would whip up some monstrosity that spits it out pretty quickly.”

Right.  I knew that, I just hadn’t thought about it.  They’d made great progress with him over the years, both in therapy and drugs.  Or so the story went.  Mother’s Hospital was the best place to get medical care, partially due to his creations, and partially due to Bonesaw.  Not that Nilbog was any less crazy, mind you — he would always be crazy, but now they had him as a manageable crazy, a form that was guided towards the betterment of mankind.  At least, people hoped.

But most people still weren’t willing to trust their lives to the two of them, even if it was their best chance and they could afford the treatment.

“Right.  But they don’t give out any of the drugs they make.  You’ve got to go to them to get the treatment.  So, maybe we could give it to-”

“Sell it,” she corrected.

“Yeah, sorry.  Sell it to the Orphanage medical school, or maybe even New Brockton’s   If we sell it to the Orphanage, they could treat the kids while training doctors on how to use it if they go to Mother’s.  Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that Tattletale would pay good money to get drugs that would keep folks in New Brockton alive and in good shape.”

Sarah nodded slowly.  “Alright, but does it require lifelong taking of the drug or not?”

I paused for a moment before confessing, “I have no idea.”

She sighed softly, shaking her head.  “We should have gotten in touch with Nexus before we left, tried to see if he could get us in touch with some doctors.  Then we could possibly hit up a few pharmacies and bring back drugs that would only require taking them for a month or so to cure someone.  We could make a huge profit off of that.”

That made me frown.  It was a good idea, but I didn’t want to deal with a drug dealer and worse.  Besides, he probably would have demanded half of what we brought back or something.  “But we didn’t.  We’re just going to have to rely on what little we know and go off of that.”

She nodded, unfolding her arms.  “Right there with you.  So, where do we look for this sodium stuff?”


In the end, we’d found some opened boxes, ready to be added to the mix when Scion had done his thing.  We’d filled a bag halfway and put it in my pack.  I still had enough room to put a little more in it at our next stop.  I knew, deep down, that Sarah was humoring me on this, not letting my burst of inspiration go to waste, but I was glad she had done it.

Chris had given us exact amounts that he needed, either of the chemicals that he needed, or what he needed to produce those chemicals.  By my rough estimations, I had enough space to barely get one of them, while Sarah could get the rest from this next stop.  Then we’d hunt down duffel bags and do some looting on our way back.

Now, however, we were approaching our target.  I’d planned this route for the initial foray for a reason — while it wasn’t the closest to our little base, it gave us plenty of leeway to maneuver and learn how the wildlings were.  We’d save the closest for last, to make our final journey a sort of victory lap.

We were drawing close now, though.  Going by Tattletale’s instructions, it was a packing and distribution center of some sort, one that specialized in chemical supply.  In theory, it had supplies of diethanolamine, liquid trichloroethylene, N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (whatever that was), and ferric chloride.  Practice, though, would be a different matter.  If containers couldn’t be opened, it would be a complete waste of our time.

Sarah raised her fist ahead of me, making me stop.  She motioned for me to take up position next to her, but also motioned for careful.  That was far from a good sign.  I moved through the tall grass carefully, gripping my halberd.

The building ahead should have been our destination, and it looked like a loading bay.  In another lifetime, lumpers would have loaded and unloaded trucks here.  In fact, there was a semi pulled up to a bay, and the building’s doors were open.  It was the flash of movement that caught my attention.

I pulled the binoculars from my belt and took a closer look.  Wildlings inside the building.  Our good luck couldn’t last forever.  Like this, I could get a good look at them.  The heads looked underdeveloped, but the mouths looked like they were good for tearing into flesh.  No eyes that I could see.  The three closest to the bay door walked with their heads down, hunched over.  The bodies were long, with a large lump on their backs.  Hind legs were developed well, good for jumping, though the forelegs looked shorter for some reason.  Strange bands of raised flesh encircled the bodies, but not the hump.

Yet another never-before seen breed of wildling.  Joy.

“Set up here,” Sarah whispered.  “Chuck a grenade or two, and you snipe.  I’ll back you up once the grenades are out, try and keep them near the blast.”

I turned to look at her, my eyes wide.  “Uh, I think it would be better if we scratched this location and went for something else.  This looks like it might be a nest, and I’m pretty sure there’s more in the area.”

Sarah turned to look at me, then shook her head.  “Desperate times.  You said yourself that a couple of the chemicals are only found here.  We take them out, then rush the docks.  Close the bay door, do a final sweep, then get what we came for.  We figure out which way is safest to go by, then make a run for it.  It’s a good plan.”

No.  No it wasn’t.  We could only see a handful of wildlings milling about from here, and there was no telling how many were inside.  Maybe just a few more, maybe a hundred.  If there were more in the area, grenades, my guns and her power would only attract them.  We were exposed, and this was a tactically bad position.  Flanking would be a cinch, even without more wildlings in the area rushing us.

This was a bad plan, but how could I tell my sister that?  She might be whispering, but she sounded completely confident.  I didn’t want to ruin that confidence.

The building across the street to the west of us had a few shops in it, and between them was a door.  I pointed over at it.  “We unlock there first, go to the apartments above the stores, and unlock one of those.  We use that as a fallback point if we start to get overwhelmed, alright?”

She looked at the building we were practically hugging.  “We come back here for it, though.  Give us some cover.”

“Alright,” I said, but I wasn’t feeling it.  If we set up near that doorway, we could easily back up the stairs, using it as an effective choke point.  As we killed them, they’d have to climb over their own dead to get to us.  It was still a suicidal position, but as far as suicidal positions went, it gave us the better chance to survive.

Crossing the street.  Most of the time, it wasn’t a nerve wracking experience, but when you could see wildlings milling about and had absolutely no cover on the asphalt, it suddenly took on a terrifying tone.  We couldn’t even be sure if the wildlings had seen us or not until we looked back at them, and I didn’t want to be looking back while running into more tall grass.  That was a recipe for disaster.

But there were no shouts of alarm from the loading bay, and we were at the door in what felt like a matter of heartbeats.  I quickly set down my halberd so it was partially on one foot and crouched, ignoring the mild protests of my body.  Unslinging my rifle, I moved to raise it…

…only to stop when I heard the door open.  I looked back to Sarah.

“Unlocked,” she whispered before moving inside.  Wordlessly, I went back to sighting down the rifle.  Nothing.  From here, I could only see occasional shadows inside of the bay.

I almost jerked the trigger when I heard what seemed like a loud tap from the stairwell.  I forced myself to relax, but it wasn’t easy when I heard another tap, followed by a creak of an opening door.  Still nothing more than shadows.  So far, we were in the clear.

Sarah appeared a moment later, and after I grabbed my halberd we made the harrowing dash across the street again.  My mind was focusing on the thousands of things that could and probably would go wrong.  But we once again ran up to the opposite building, near the corner.  Yeah, I had a much better line of sight here.

I paused long enough to grab one of the grenades attached to Sarah’s backpack and hand it to her before pausing so that she could grab one off of mine.  Four more after this.

I settled back down onto one knee, again balancing the halberd’s shaft on one foot.  Sarah offered me the pistol she was carrying, and I carefully laid it down beside me so I could get at it easily once things got hot.

I focused on the worry that I felt, which only made it stronger.  Good.  It was quickly going into outright fear.  “One for the money,” I whispered softly.

“Two for the show.”

Fear quickly paved the way to outright panic.  As Sarah pulled the pin on the first grenade, I looked down the sights, finding my first target.  “Three to get ready.”  My voice was absolutely trembling, but I focused harder, making it even worse.

“And four to-”

My mind fell.

————-

“GO.”

The word seemed to last forever, and my finger pulled long and slow on the trigger.  It seemed to take an eternity for the gun to fire, the recoil pushing it into my arm, and the bullet leaving the barrel just before the kick tilted it upwards.

I was aware, as much as I was aware of anything at this moment, of something else flying through the air, heading for the building just as my bullet was heading for the wildling.  The creature’s head jerked with a spray of gore as my hand moved to the action in slow motion.  For a moment, I was confused about the brass colored log that came out of the gun, until it rotated enough that I could see the dented primer.  It was the bullet casing.

I had read everything about Bruce Lee that I could when I was younger.  He was practically a scientist when it came to martial arts, studying not only the movements, but also the psychology.  I’d learned a lot from those books, but even more once I learned that not only was he a martial artist, but also a shrewd businessman.

“Bend like a reed in the wind,” he’d said.  But that was him tapping into Eastern terminology in order to explain something that he’d learned how to do with science.  Because jeet kun do was a martial art, people expected things that sounded like they came from Asia.  But the manipulation of one’s own mind to force it to give hardwired, practiced responses with extreme accuracy was something he’d mastered by hooking an EEG up to his own head.

I’d taught myself how to do the same thing.  It wasn’t as elegant as he had done it, but it got the job done.  The downside was that I had to be an outside observer to my own body, not thinking, not exerting any will at all lest the automatic mode shut down.  Right now, that wasn’t an option.  It also meant tunnel vision for as long as I was primed on a target, a loss of conscious control, and various other minor issues that meant that it was only a viable tactic in do-or-die situations.

The wildling was staggered, but it wasn’t going down.  Apparently, it could handle a shot to the head.  I righted my rifle, got my finger back on the trigger and fired again.  This time, my bullet tore through the hump on its back, and it immediately went down.

My hand was working the action again as wildlings began to pour out of the building.  There were a lot more than three of them.  I couldn’t count right now, though, not unless I wanted to knock myself out of it.

As I raised my rifle again, an explosion tore through some of the wildlings, shrapnel shredding their bodies.  Sarah’s grenade.  Good.

My body fired again, tearing into another hump.  It didn’t kill the beast, but it took it down, making it thrash uselessly against the ground.  As the creatures were pouring out of the distribution center, the coils around their bodies unfolded into tentacles.

My body fired again, taking another one down, as the one next to it was flung back into the ones behind it.  Sarah’s power at work; she wasn’t even going at full power.  She was just trying to make them trip over each other, injure themselves.

Or not.  Another explosion ripped through the cluster of wildlings, killing a few and injuring others.  But the distribution center was a full nest, larger than either of us had anticipated.  As I fired again, I felt a tug at my back.  She was grabbing another grenade.  We’d need it.

I dropped the magazine from my rifle as my left hand grabbed another from my belt, slamming it home almost before the used one was clear.  Again, in slow motion, my hand worked the bolt action.  If only I could work this fast while in active control.

I fired twice more before I understood what my body had instinctively known.  If the wildlings didn’t have eyes, they needed another way to be aware of their surroundings.  The hump.  I was effectively blinding them with each shot, perhaps even hitting the brain.  Hard to say, and I wasn’t thinking about it.  Just going with the flow.

After the third shot, my right hand let go of the rifle while my left moved to toss it away.  It fell so slowly before hitting the sidewalk.  It bounced wildly, first the butt hitting the pavement, and then the barrel.  Slowly, my revolver came into view.  My left hand made it around the grip, forming a perfect weaver grip.  Normally, if I were standing, I would go for a CAR or an isosceles stance, but on one knee like this, the weaver grip worked best.

As soon as my left hand was in position, I fired the revolver, my arm twisting a little to absorb the recoil.  I could see the cylinder rotate, moving another bullet into position, even as another wildling fell.  As I adjusted back and aimed again, the one that had been behind it tripped over the prone body; those short forelegs weren’t doing them any favors.

Another shot, and Sarah threw.  A third shot; halfway through the bullets in it.  My fourth shot only grazed a wildling in the side, making me waste valuable ammunition on shooting it again.  Sarah knocked one back, and then another.  She must have been double-fisting.

My sixth shot was a good hit, and my revolver left my line of sight.  Each blink felt like an eternity of darkness.  In a weird way, that was good, though.  It kept me in that zone.

Another explosion, and Sarah was yelling something, but I couldn’t make it out.  Even without the guns and grenades, sound worked funny in this headspace.  For as much damage as we were doing, they were gaining ground on us through sheer numbers.  They might have a giant target on their backs, but quantity had a quality all of its own, and they were bound to show off the rest of their quality once they got in close to use those tentacles.  They wouldn’t have survived long enough to make as big of a nest if they didn’t have something going for them.

The semi-auto came into my field of view, already twisting to be held in the CAR position.  This tilted the gun at a 45 degree angle my rotating the shoulder and not the wrist or elbow, making the recoil absorption much better.  Two shots, one wide and one directly at the center of the hump.

It was hard to gauge time, distance, or anything while in this mode.  My body and my automatic reflexes were handling all of those.  As far as I knew, my entire world was encompassed around the six lead wildlings.  The large brass cans that flew into my vision were bullet casings, I knew, but my body wasn’t focused on them in the slightest.  Every one to two bullets, my target would change to the next wildling.

I wasn’t even sure how many I was killing any more.  There would be a spray of blood and viscera, but the wildling I’d disabled quickly went completely out of focus.

When the fifteenth round was fired, my left hand abandoned its grip on the pistol, reaching down.  My thumb worked the magazine release, and my wrist flicked, sending the empty mag flying.  An old trick that I’d practiced daily for over a year.  Had I been in direct control, I probably wouldn’t have done it so well after not practicing in so long.

But as my hands slammed the fresh magazine home and racked a new round into the chamber, it gave me a good indicator as to how much time had been spent.  The last time that I practiced this maneuver, it had taken me an average two and a half seconds to fire two shots and reload like this.  If I rounded it up to three seconds and assumed that the time distortion I was experiencing in this state of mind was a constant, it would mean that a little over a minute and a half had passed.

Not that I was actively thinking about this, or anything in general; it was information that was instantly present in my mind.  It would be a lot easier if the time dilation effect was a power.

Two shots to take down the next one.  I should have practiced more with this pistol, especially in switching to it from the revolver.  My body was still having trouble adjusting.  I could barely make out something falling behind the lead wildlings, but my body wouldn’t focus on it.  One shot to take down another beast.  And that’s when everything went wrong.

It was the smoke that drew my attention first, but it took a few moments of my sped up perception for my body to take note.  My eyes turned far too slowly, just enough to see the last of the smoke escaping a crack that had appeared in the side of the gun.  As it came into sharper focus, I could see that the bottom of the magazine had forcefully ejected out, the unspent bullets dropping out of it.

A case head failure.  The bullet casing had split during firing for one reason or another, causing all this damage, ruining the gun.  If I hadn’t been wearing my armor, my hands would have been stining pretty bad right now.  Instead, they were simply dropping the weapon.  It was no good to anybody now.  That was a pity; not only was I keeping them at bay, but I’d started to push them back a little.  Now, I’d have to let them come within melee range.

My body sprang to its feet.  I didn’t have to see my foot to know it jerked up.  It was a maneuver that I practiced far too frequently.  The only indicator that I could see as to it happening was the halberd coming into view, my left hand snatching it out of the air in slow motion.  My right hand moved to the lower section of the shaft, disconnecting it and moving that portion out of sight.  No doubt, sliding it into the loop I had on my belt so I could use it as a backup weapon.

The shorter shaft gave me less reach, but greater maneuverability.  I fell into a slight crouch as the wildlings drew closer, their tentacles stretching out for me.  As the first set of tentacles came within range, I stepped forward and gave a slice that severed the offending appendages.  I followed it up with a stab that seemed to take minutes to connect, driving the point of my halberd into the wildling’s hump.

The stumps began to thrash and the wildling began to buck.  My grip shifted a little as I stepped forward again, tearing the halberd free from flesh and bone and extending the weapon, slicing into another one.  Quickly, as quickly as anything was in this state, I took a step back as I attacked the next.  Efficient.  Against a group of humans, a certain degree of flash was helpful.  Keep your kills quick and to the point, but adding flash in a way that didn’t leave you exposed could help the psychological game, making them second-guess themselves.

Animals didn’t have the same psychological game as humans.  Wildlings?  It was best just to slaughter them as quickly as possible.  I’d lucked out when I’d instinctively targeted their humps, otherwise we probably only would have disabled maybe a quarter of what we had.

I swung twice more with tight, precise movements, destroying both of my targets.  My body ducked under a widely telegraphed swing of a tentacle before striking back, nearly cleaving the offending creature in two.  I started to turn, only for my halberd to snag.  Another wildling had gotten its tentacles around the shaft.

My hands shifted their grip and jerked.  In the slight moment that it took for the wildling to tug back, I’d disconnected the blade of my halberd, bringing it down to sever the tentacles, then back up to lop its hump completely off.  My head turned slightly, giving me a clear line of sight to strike the shaft directly into the hump of another wildling, giving me just enough time to reconnect the blade to the shaft.

My grip wasn’t very good as I swung at another, only hitting it in the leg — enough to dismember the leg and leave a huge gash in the side of the beast.  My follow-up stab to the hump went clean through, making me brace myself in order to pull the halberd free.  My foot lashed out, kicking yet another in the face to give me time.  My halberd swung, and was on target, but it lacked the power that it should have.

That’s because my body was falling sideways.

I rolled hard in slow motion, coming up on my left foot.  Nothing had successfully attacked me, and I still had plenty of time before more got close, so why had I fallen?  My body swung again, connecting with another, but made no effort to get up.  My stance adjusted; apparently my body was planning on staying on my right knee.

Oh.  The best reason for that to happen was that my knee had given out.  That took out almost all of my maneuverability and most of my combat options at this point.  This fight was going from bad to worse rather quickly.  That revelation made it harder to keep my mind detached from what was going on.

Even worse, my perception was getting more skewed.  Even in slow motion, I couldn’t keep track of how many I was killing.  One would disappear from my focus, instantly replaced with another, and then another, too quickly for me to keep it all straight.  Sometimes, they weren’t even possible targets yet.  Occasionally one would come into sharp focus for a moment, long enough for me to confirm that I’d killed it, but it was too few and far between.  If things kept at this rate, I’d have to reassert control soon.

Tentacles wrapped around my body, pinning one of my arms down.  I’d gotten flanked in the confusion.  My free hand reached up and drew the knife from my chest.  The slice at the two tentacles was awkward, but still did the job; the cut was clean, severing both of them, and with a little effort my arm broke away from my chest, instantly shifting into a downward slice that killed the wildling that had briefly trapped me.  Almost instantly, the knife at my chest was sheathed again, both hands back on the halberd.

As the blur of slicing more tentacles and killing wildlings became more intense, I was vaguely aware of an increasing pile of bodies around me.  They had me surrounded, but I was holding them off.  Better yet, I was keeping their focus off Sarah.  I didn’t mind so much if I got hurt, so long as I could keep her safe.  I only had one sister.

I turned slightly to attack one that was trying to slip behind me, before using my good leg to help me lunge forward, delivering a powerful slice that cut a wildling’s hump clean off.  I struck at another, seemingly killing it, too.  I pulled back to reset to strike at yet another, but could see my arms tense despite the shaft continuing backwards.

As I turned my head to look, I saw a tentacle wrapping around the lower shaft.  I could see myself starting to tilt even as I noticed another tentacle wrapped around right under the head of the halberd.  That took out a lot of my offensive options — from this angle, it would be easy to tip me over, and my body couldn’t even disconnect the blade of the weapon to use independently.

More tentacles from the opposite side wrapped around my chest, almost immediately pulling.  That was a good thing, at least.  My arms yanked hard, relying on the tentacles around my chest to help give me leverage, and pulled, dragging the wildling closer.  I released the shaft with one hand, reaching into my belt and drawing the portion I’d disconnected earlier.  I let go for a moment, and it seemed to float in front of my eyes before my hand gripped it again.

The base of that section had always ended in a ball for just moments like these.  I swung hard, the ball impacting with the hump.  It seemed to take ages, but the wildling must have begun to thrash immediately, ripping the halberd from my other hand and sending it flying.

I turned in slow motion, though my head wasn’t moving right.  My body wasn’t paying heed to that, instead focusing on the wildling with the tentacles around my chest that was lunging at me.  My hand raised, turning the cudgel sideways and thrust it into the open maw that was coming straight for my face.  The two ends of the shaft piece caught on either side of the jaw, keeping it from closing completely around my wrist.  I wasn’t sure if it could take my hand off or not, but my body wasn’t taking any chances by using this maneuver.  It was like making a fist in a dog’s mouth to keep it from biting you effectively.

Not a tactic I would have tried were I in control, but it seemed to be working.

My suddenly free hand reached to my boot, drawing the knife there.  I watched as it slammed my old, reliable blade into the hump, drew back, switched the grip, and then slammed it into the creature’s chest.  The blade slipped between the ribs, presumably into the lungs, before drawing free.  My body tried to slice at the tentacles, but found them to be too tough for that blade.  Weird that the blade could cut into hide over the hump and chest, but not the tentacles, but it wasn’t like I could think about it in this state.

At the same time, I was aware of slowly tilting backwards.  My body put a hand down and turned, an awkward movement.  As time moved through thick molasses, though, I realized why.  A wildling had made it behind me, and there were tentacles extending to me.  I couldn’t see where they’d grabbed me.

This beast wasn’t waiting, though, and was already jumping me.  With my hand down to help with turning to the threat, I couldn’t get the cudgel up in time to repeat my previous maneuver.  Instead, I was able to get my forearm up under its chin as I fell backwards.  We hit the ground hard, its clawed paws trying to rip open my chest ineffectually.  So long as I kept them and the maw away from my face, I’d be fine.

My free hand came up to grab the knife at my chest.  Where had my boot knife gone?  As the creature’s teeth barely missed my eye, the tinker tech blade slammed into its chest.  The creature reared, and my hand stabbed twice more.  Still, the beast wasn’t pulling away, so my grip reversed and slammed into its hump, dragging the blade along its length.

That got a reaction, making it buck away.  Unfortunately, it dragged me with until I was upright.  My upper body was kept from going any further, but my head jerked badly.

Crap.  The tentacles ran from the newly-dying wildling to a place that I couldn’t quite see.  Which meant my neck.

My blade slashed against the taunt tentacles, even as my vision was going funny.  Well, funnier.  Pinpricks were appearing before my eyes.

It slashed again, this time against my chest, cutting those tentacles free.  One less problem, at least.

I gave an experimental tug at the tentacles around my neck, only making my head jerk again.  I tried pulling them another angle, but to no avail.

The pinpricks were getting bad.  Really bad.

My body fell over in slow motion.  This mindstate that I wasn’t helping, using up more precious oxygen, but for some reason I couldn’t reengage control.

It might have had a grip for too long, and now my brain couldn’t work straight.

Color had somehow drained from the world and my eyelids were flickering my vision.  Those were my eyelids, right?

I tried lifting my hand.

It lifted agonizingly slowly.

It was limp, barely holding onto the blade.

The blade my brother had made me.

My family.

My movements weren’t coordinated as my hand moved beyond my vision.

I tilted my head, rolling into the now-matted grass.

I was going to cut the tentacles free, I realized.

It seemed like an eternity, the pinpricks filling all of my vision.

I didn’t realize anything else.

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7 thoughts on “Tuonetar 3.3

  1. Thank you for reading this chapter.

    This was an awkward one to write. I’m not good at combat, and I’m not the greatest at abstract. Combining the two was difficult. However, at the same time, I wanted to show this side of Jordan. It isn’t quite what the real thing is like, but it’s closer than I see in most fiction. A good portion of that was the fact that long ago, Errant Vagrant secured some interviews for me with those who have experienced this. Martial artists, military, police, and fire fighters were invaluable to helping me understand it better. And these days, some fascinating research is being done.

    They say write what you know. I disagree. Write what you want to know. If you aren’t throwing some sort of research into it, even if it’s just reading a similar genre, then you aren’t going to do as well. In this case, I’m putting past research to good use.

    I don’t think I did very well in this chapter, and my first instinct is to just delete it and start from scratch with something more normal, perhaps finding a way to gloss over a zerg rush like this. But I won’t get better then, and I need to. I have harder stories I’d like to tell, ideas that require practice in a lot of different things. You always need to stick your neck out and try new things. If you just do the same thing over and over, how can you get any better?

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  2. Holy crap this is excellent work. Just binged the whole thing. The rest had great rhythm and energy but its really hit its stride in this arc. Can’t wait!

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    • Thank you! This arc is one that I’m very paranoid about, especially since it’s going to be considerably longer than the others.

      Though, this chapter should get major props to Errant Vagrant. He was great help in determining how the fight should go, things that could go wrong, and how Jordan could be a badass and still end up the way he did. We acted out this fight five times in total to get everything right. I may have provided the words, but he provided the knowledge so that I could write them.

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  3. First of all, the mood-setting this chapter was excellent. I felt myself getting worried when Jordan was intentionally panicking; it was infectious.
    I spent most of the fight having an internal debate over whether or not the tunnel-vision was a power. But it is plausible, so if you say you’ve researched it, I’ll believe you. Pretty interesting stuff.
    And you did a dang good job of writing the fight scene. The written word is a particularly limited medium for writing fights, particularly “ordinary” fights without strategic maneuvering or dramatic superpowered shenanigans. Within those limits, this is one of the better fights I’ve read.

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