Enki 7.9

We’d wasted enough time waiting for the teleporter to charge, but at least I’d been able to visit the local graveyard for a little bit.  That had let me get in the proper mindset to completely ruin someone’s lifestyle.  In this case, though, it hadn’t required much.  I would have done this one for free.

“We all know the plan?” I asked as we stepped out back.  Everyone nodded, looking uncomfortable.  I fought back a sigh, remembering that these people weren’t fighters first and foremost.  Even Kathy, who had a decidedly combat power, didn’t think like a fighter.  I’d have to go through the whole routine, including a debriefing after it was over.  “Say it.  Tell me the plan.”

There was a pregnant pause before John spoke slowly.  “We teleport out there, depositing ourselves outside of the city limits.  Since the city has no walls, it’ll be easier to get in.”

Infiltrate.  They still weren’t learning the proper language.

“After that, we use Brenda in quick bursts to help triangulate the Wardens.  Meanwhile, you’re sneaking into the Tinker’s lair.  Once you’ve either gotten into a fight with him or taken him down, we attack hard and fast, taking them down.”

“And not killing them,” Kathy added quickly.

“Right,” I said with a nod.  “While it might add to my rep–”

“Which we still need to talk about,” John cut in.

Dang, he hadn’t forgotten about that.  “Later.  But so far, they’re only sending cadets after us.  If I’m a Warden killer, or have ordered Wardens killed, then they’re probably going to send worse after me.  Keep them alive.  Besides, I want to see them eaten.”

Emi was quick to chime in.  “Once we’ve got them taken down, you call Nexus, then the Wardens.  We stick around just long enough to let them see, and then we get the fuck outta there.”

I nodded once.  “We’re all on the same page.  Once we teleport out, though, we’re going to go over all the details of what happened.  Understand?”  Debriefings weren’t just to keep track of what had happened.

Going over the plan in slow, meticulous detail helped to put a person in a mindset that was more detached from the combat itself.  Even when things went wrong, it helped create a certain almost-but-not-quite disassociation from the violence.  If we had to kill someone, briefing them on the plan in that manner would help to ease them into it.  I didn’t want a repeat of the problems that Kathy had last time.

Likewise, debriefings helped to understand and rationalize the violence, while also helping to bring them back into a more normal mindset.  They’d made sure to teach me quite a bit about PTSD and how to combat it in school, though I wasn’t entirely sure why.

Everyone nodded firmly, tugging their masks into place again.  Good.  “Then let’s do this.”

I hit the button on my belt, and instantly the world changed.  Instead of standing in Nexus’ back yard, we were at the treeline looking at a building twenty feet away.  I took a moment to orient myself, looking around for the wooden water tower.  Once I found that, it took a few more seconds to determine north.

Emi patted my arm.  “Seeya on the the other side, J-man.”

“You too, Blue.”  I turned and hurried, skirting the village as quickly as I could while maintaining a low profile, my grip hard on my halberd.  So long as nobody raised an alarm, I knew I’d be fine.  Surprise was on our side, and that would count for a lot.

It took nearly five minutes to find the large greenstone rock.  The thick blanket of moss almost hid it, but the directions Nexus gave me helped out immensely.  I had absolutely no hesitation as I attached the halberd to my back; there was no turning back, only forward from here.

My hands searched for a few minutes, testing every piece of the rock that I could, before I finally found the latch.  Once I hit that, the rock flipped open almost on its own — counterweights or Tinker tech, most likely.  Inside was a ladder leading quite a ways down.

“Going in.”  I quickly swung my feet over, climbing down.

Brenda says she’s found them,” John whispered over the radio.  “But there’s people nearby.  Might be tricky.

Of course it was tricky.  Nothing simple like beating down a Brute and Shaker was ever easy.

The passage that I found myself in was almost seven feet tall, and about as wide, shaped in half of a hexagon.  The walls were metal, too, which was comforting.  That meant that there was less of a chance of it collapsing.  The downside was that it had to be at least a hundred feet long.  Because of course the back entrance would run forever in one direction before entering the lair proper.  Why would it just deposit me into some unused corner of the layer?  That would make my life so much easier, so of course it couldn’t happen.

I retrieved my halberd from my back, squinting at the door on the far end.  It was hard to make out in the candle-like light levels, but at least I knew now that I was headed in the right direction.  I moved slowly, crouched slightly, each step carefully heel-to-toe in order to keep myself as stealthy and quiet as possible.  My hips rotated ever so slightly with each step to make my footfalls as silent as possible.

Naturally, I nearly jumped out of my skin a loud clang sounded out behind me.

I spun, looking up towards the source — a gate had closed over the hold that I’d entered down.  I felt a little disappointed.  Not that I shouldn’t have expected it, a Tinker with a proper lair having a trap, but that the room didn’t just fill with plasma.  I had enough time to think about what was going on.  This guy was falling into all the old tropes.

The lights kicked on, giving me a better view of the hallway.  The design of metal reinforcements on the wall behind the ladder was odd and irregular, but otherwise the hall had a fairly standard industrial design, with dark metal bulbs extruding from the walls at regular intervals.

No time to think.  I spun, ready to sprint for the door.

The hall kept spinning as I found myself falling.  It took every ounce of control that I had to keep from throwing up as I hit the ground.  Vomiting into my helmet wasn’t a good thing, especially not right now.

Ah!  It kicks in already!  I expected it to take longer!”  The man’s echoed oddly in the metal hallway.

What was he talking about?

Ah, a mild tingle across my entire body that was getting stronger by the moment.  Most likely some sort of energy that was doing… something.  It was hard to think straight while trying to keep from throwing up.

The fact that the world was still spinning didn’t help.

My hand flopped oddly for a moment before it finally found purchase on the floor to help push me up.  I had to use my halberd to help get me to my feet.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it was damn annoying.

“Fubar,” I said as confidently as I could.  “Begin.”

On it,” Emi responded.  That was one less thing to worry about.

I fond myself having to force my legs to work.  It wasn’t that they felt like jelly or anything, it was more like I felt like I was trying to walk through quicksand.  It took concentration to force myself into movement.

Ahhh,” the Tinker said in a tone that oozed with contempt.  What was his name again?  “You’re Jordan, aren’t you?  Sneaking in to assassinate me, huh?

“It’s more complicated than that.”  At least talking was fine.

One foot in front of the other.  Didn’t matter, just keep moving.

Oh, right.  Of course you’d say that, Mr. Butcher.

Keep walking.  I couldn’t run even if my legs didn’t move slowly, not with how my head was spinning, but at least I could keep moving.

“Butcher was a para on the east coast, taken down by the Undersiders in Brockton Bay. L-leader of the Teeth.”  I took a measured breath — the tingling was getting worse by the moment, on the verge of painful.  “I’m just Jordan.”

Whatever.  Either way, you won’t get out of this hall.

I aimed to disappoint him.

I could hear a hum now, and my eyes flicked to the dark metal hemispheres on the walls.  Emitters.

I hefted my halberd and swung hard, the axe impacted with one of the hemispheres solidly.  As I pulled back, the emitter only showed a deep scoring in it, no actual real damage.  What I did notice, though, was an arc of electricity that went from the emitter to the axe head as they separated.

Oh!  Trying to save yourself!  Give it up, Mr. Jordan.  You can’t get all of them.

This guy was already getting on my nerves.

He was right, though.  There were hundreds of these things lining the walls.  There was no way I could destroy them all.

It was starting to get a little painful as I began slogging my way down the hall again.  Better to conserve my strength.  I’d need it to break open that door.

I made it another dozen steps before my body was rocked by three explosions that made my armor stiffen, two on my chest and one on my hip.  All around me, I saw the sparks of ricochets.

All of the ammunition that I had on me had just went off at once on their own.  If it hadn’t been for my armor, I would have been dead.  I looked down at my hip — my pistol was destroyed.

My pistol.  The M1911 that…

That Chris had given me.

I stopped dead in my tracks, staring at the ruined, twisted metal that had once been a weapon.  My hand reached down of its own accord to carefully pull the ruined weapon from its holster, and my eyes began to burn.

Chris.  Chris had given me that gun to…  To replace the revolver that I’d lost.

It felt like someone had cut open my chest and poured liquid fire inside.  I primal moan of grief escaped me as I fell to my knees.

He hadn’t understood why I’d preferred revolvers, and the mirror shine hadn’t been useful in a tactical sense.  Not in the slightest.  But Chris had honestly tried, he’d done everything within his power to make sure that he’d gotten me a good gun.  And here it was, destroyed.

I felt like I had just lost some sort of connection to him.  That I’d let him down somehow.

You okay?” Kathy asked over the radio.  I forgot that I was transmitting.

I couldn’t answer, though.  What could I say?  That I just destroyed something important to me?  That I’d let them down by not getting this guy?

Shit!”  Her radio went silent again as an arc of electricity jumped from the floor to the remains of the gun in my hand.

I let Chris down.  I’d let everyone down.  I let the remains of the weapon tumble from my hand.

But I still had a job to do.  Everyone was counting on me.  My friends, Nexus, and even if they didn’t know it, the people of this village were counting on me.

My vision blurred as I forced myself to my feet once more, though it wasn’t only from the grief.  The pain was ramping up by the moment.  It didn’t matter.  I had a job to do.  Nothing else mattered.  Finish the job, no matter what.

Don’t go swimming in radiation, I guess.

Chris’ words echoed through my head, harkening back to our conversation about the armor.  He hadn’t gone into more details, and I  hadn’t asked.  Now I felt dumb.  I should have asked, should have found out what radiation might do.

I wasn’t even sure what the emitters were shooting.  It was technically radiation of a type, but what kind?  It was reacting between metals, but that could be so many different kinds, some of them more immediately lethal than others.  And what would the effects on the armor be?

Halfway down the hall, the pain began to really ratchet up.  It wasn’t like any other kind of pain that I’d ever experienced.  Cutting, burning, and pinching all at once.  I could feel it almost everywhere.  My skin, my muscles, my bones, my head…

My breath came in short gasps as I continued.

I couldn’t stop.  Each step brought me closer to my goal.  Even as my vision kept blurring on me, I kept that goal in sight.

I’d have to break my way through the door.  Those emitters were putting out a lot of energy, and it seemed like most of that energy was being absorbed by the corridor itself.  It had to be.  With any luck, the door was absorbing it, too.  That would be my way in, with a little bit of luck.

With each moment, the pain in my body got worse.  As the pain got worse, my legs seemed to need more concentration to move.

The pain made the need to vomit a minor concern.  I couldn’t even swallow anymore, let alone throw up.

Step by agonizing step.  After what felt like forever, I finally reached the door.  Leaning on my halberd, I reached down to my belt.

The first fire pellet squashed in my fingers.  I threw the flame off onto the door haphazardly.  Unlike my glove, it stuck.

The second pellet split on its own, leaking a powder that quickly turned into a fluid.  I tried throwing that into the fire, but it didn’t ignite.  I should have asked Chris more about how these worked.

The third pellet held together, more protected by the casing.  I physically mashed it into the seam.  The rest of them were the same way as I worked my way down.

Victory was mine.  After a moment’s wait, I braced myself and swung my halberd.  It wasn’t easy, but I was able to cut through the metal door.  I virtually fell against the frame as a hand that didn’t want to respond grasped to pull it open.

Revealing a blank wall behind it.

Ha!” The Tinker seemed far too pleased with himself.  “You idiot!  If you would have checked the wall by the ladder, you would have seen the latch!  But no, you had to go for the obvious!  And now you’re going to die!

Mother.  Fucker.

I pushed myself off the doorframe, staggering.  Each breath felt impossibly hot against my lips as I turned, looking back down the corridor.

You only live once.  I began shuffling forward, unsure if my blurry eyes were from the pain or the sweat that was streaming off me faster than the suit could wick it away.

I made it three steps before I lost my balance.  I couldn’t even focus enough for my halberd to support me, slamming into the ground hard enough to completely blank my vision.

Are you still alive out there, Mr. Jordan?  Not for much longer, I’m thinking!

He was right.  This was where I was going to die.  Nothing to be done about it.

I’d had a good run of things.  Up until New Fairfax, I’d helped a lot of people.  I’d done some good in this world.  And I’d done my part to keep my siblings alive.  It would be so easy to just…  stop fighting.  Give in.  Relax.

Jordan?

I opened my eyes.  Mom was standing a ways away from me, staring down with… disappointment?  Her voice had been funny, though.

Are you still alive?”  Kathy?  “Listen…  We can’t take them.  They’re kicking out ass out here, and I don’t think they’ve even–

I blinked a few times, looking around the empty corridor as the radio cut off.

Couldn’t relax.  Still had a job to do.

A scream tore from my chest as I pushed myself up to my hands and knees, my arms shaking.  Barely able to support my weight.  I dragged ragged breaths, feeling like my lungs were searing each time.

“Pity,” I said loudly.  “That we…  We gotta meet.  Like this.”

Says the guy who came to kill me,” the Tinker responded.

I had to shift gears.  If I were John, what would I say?

“So…  So paranoid.”  I pushed myself up onto my knees, staring down the corridor.  Talking was so very hard.  “Not…  Why I came.  Need Tinkers.  Make a deal.”

What makes you think that I’d want to make a deal with you?

“Nexus…  hired me.  Talk to you before…  Before taking down the Wardens.”  Everything blurred.  “Gonna…  Gonna send…”

With that, my strength gave out again.  I fell onto my back in an awkward position.  If I just laid here for a moment, collected my strength.  I’d have to fight through even more pain, but I could deal.

Except, suddenly the pain wasn’t worse.  Sure, it was still worse than anything that had ever happened to my knee, but it wasn’t worse than a moment ago.  It was even fading just a tiny bit.

Maybe we should talk.

Oh thank fucking goodness!  I didn’t so much as breathe as I did convulse in a beneficial way.  “Hard to talk…  When I’m dead.”

I’ve shut off the emitters and told the Wardens to back down.  Don’t kill your people…  For the time being.  They’re both licking their wounds.  Come on back and we’ll talk.

I heaved a sigh of relief.  Finally, a real victory.  There was still plenty more to do, though.

After a few moments to regain my strength, I slowly righted myself.  After a few more laboring heartbeats, I grabbed my halberd to pull myself to my feet.  My legs still felt like they were made of concrete blocks, but I was able to make more forward progress now, no longer shuffling and back to lifting them a hair off the ground.

It took almost five minutes to get back to the opposite end of the hallway.  As I approached, the hidden door, disguised by the pattern on the wall, swung open to reveal a small chamber.  I didn’t ask any questions, I just made my way inside.

Another door, this one made out of glass of some sort, separated me from the further interior.  Much of it was made of smooth stone, at least, where the Tinker’s equipment wasn’t occupying space.  I could make out massive monitors showing the city from every angle.  Because of course he’d have that.

But I could also see the man himself.

He wasn’t much to look at, despite being about my height.  Not quite obese, nothing compared to Miss Tease, but he was definitely on the hefty side.  Long blond hair and a scraggly beard hid his features, but his clothes were very nice.  Better than Nexus’, surprisingly.  At least I could see that he was pale — he probably hadn’t seen the sun in quite some time.

He nodded at an alcove inside the chamber.  “Weapons in there.  Belt, too.”

I looked to my halberd.  “Prolly…  Gonna fall over without it.”  I could breathe easier now, though I was still burning up.  Each breath felt like lava, and my suit was doing nothing to cool my body down.  But I was getting slowly better by the second.  He didn’t need to know that, though.

“And I know how dangerous you are.  Weapons in there.  Including your knives.”

No winning this fight.  With a sigh, I leaned against the alcove, putting my halberd, knives, and even my belt inside.  If I’d worn my pack, I would have put that in, too.  Now I regretted not bringing it.

I rested my face against the cool rock of the frame, not even jumping when a panel suddenly slammed shut.  It looked like thin aluminum sheeting, though.  I could have punched through it if I wanted.  Or if I had the strength.

But I heard the door open behind me.  Good enough for me.  I put a little emphasis on staggering as I pushed myself off the wall, made myself seem a little weaker as I turned and stepped through.

“Alright, Mr. Jordan.  You want to talk?  We talk.”

I nodded slowly, faking swallowing.  That still wasn’t quite happening yet.  “Nexus…  He’s got… plans for the city.  Plans that…  Wardens aren’t good for.  He sent me in to talk.  Was…  supposed to sneak in the back door, then knock on the door proper.  Didn’t want…  The Wardens seeing.”

“Plans,” the Tinker said slowly.  “What sort of…  plans?”

I took a shuddering breath.  “You…  You rule the underground here.  That’s good, ‘cos…  ‘Cos there’s some stuff he needs from the ground.  New…  New drug, needs certain…”  I paused for a moment before shaking my head.  “Things.  Chemicals extracted.  Can’t remember… which now.  This are should… be good for that.”

“Alright,” he said, holding up a hand for me to stop.  “Lemmie guess here, since you’re taking forever.  In exchange for letting him, or helping him, extract these chemicals, whatever they are, he’s going to offer me something in return?”

I nodded.  “No more…  sharing with those two.  His people… enforce for free.  Plus, you get…  You get a cut of the profits from what he makes with them.”

The Tinker frowned a little.  “And the Wardens?”

I shook my head.  “He has…  some on his payroll.  Got evidence of their corruption, then took out…  All references to you.  They come, arrest those two, kangaroo court…  To…  To everyone else, it looks like…  Justice is served.”

The Tinker nodded slowly.  “Fifty percent.”

What?  What was he talking about?  He must have picked up on my confusion despite the helmet.  “Fifty percent of the profits.”

I shook my head.  “Supposed…  Supposed to lowball ya.  Start with one, work up.  Too…  Too exhausted for that.  Eight.  Final offer.”

The Tinker frowned a little, debating.  Come on, I willed.  Come on.  This simmering that I was doing in my armor wasn’t helping my patience in the slightest.

“How do I know you’re on the level?”

I laughed hoarsely.  “Well, I had some wonderful paperwork for you, up until my ammo exploded.”

That made him frown deeply.  “I don’t know if I can trust you.”

Had to think fast.  “Listen.  You’ve got my weapons.  Even if the others…  Even if they were to come after you, you could blow the city.  Counterproductive.  One word, boom.  Right?”

“Right.”

“Okay.  Let me go up.  Call him.  Send…  Send someone else with copies of the paperwork.  Talk…  Talk it over with someone who isn’t…  half dead.  Yeah?”  I held out my hand for a shake, wavering a bit from the motion.  “Fair.  On the level.  I promise.”

The Tinker thought about it for a brief moment before slowly crossing over to me, taking my hand.  “Yeah, I guess that’s–”

I yanked his arm hard and drove my left palm into his elbow with all my might, snapping it.  Immediately, I reversed the strike into a backfist in his nose, before he could even begin screaming.  As he stumbled, I drove my foot hard into the side of his knee — his lack of exercise and the heavy weight his legs carried served to make it that much weaker, snapping it like a twig.

This burst was draining me fast.  But he was screaming incoherently as he tumbled to the ground.

I didn’t so much of jump on him as I did fall.  I struggled to get his right arm again, twisting it and driving my knee into it hard enough to feel it fracture multiple times.  As he howled in pain, I grabbed his shirt and pulled as hard as I could.

If it had been silk or something, it wouldn’t have torn quite like that, but it was still fine cloth.  Didn’t matter.  As soon as I had a large enough chunk, I tore another strip.  Had to move fast.  The first bundle of cloth went into his mouth, and the second got wrapped around it, tying it tight.

My immediate work done, I half headbutted him, half collapsed on him, content to focus on breathing for a few moments.  With both arms broken, I didn’t have to worry about him typing some sort of destruct plan.  With his mouth occupied by a quarter of a fancy shirt, I wouldn’t have to worry about him saying that one word, whatever it was.

Priorities.

After a few moments, I lifted myself back up, giving him a half-hearted punch to the face.  This was half of it.  I needed to handle the Wardens now, but I wasn’t up to a real fight.  I looked around for something to help…

…and smiled despite myself.


I lumbered ahead as quickly as I could.  It hadn’t taken me long to get set up, and moving in this power armor wasn’t easy.  Just because the Tinker and I were the same height didn’t mean that our bodies were anything alike.  It was made for him and him alone, so I was having more than a little difficulty.  It was better than walking, though.

It didn’t stop me from feeling that I was going to die at any moment from heat stroke, though.

It took almost ten minutes of trekking through the streets, my halberd in the power armor’s fist, before I finally saw the two groups in a standoff.  Emi was laying on the ground, Kathy was sporting a minor cut on her face, but otherwise, they looked fine.  A far sight better than me.

The male Warden had a bloody nose, and the female Warden was having to use one hand to protect her modesty from a torn shirt, but otherwise they weren’t any worse for wear.  Great.  I’d have to teach them more than just how to throw a punch here soon, or they wouldn’t beat anyone serious.

“About damn time you showed up,” the woman said, turning towards me.  “What the hell’s going on?”

I tossed the halberd on the ground in front of me, getting a gasp out of Kathy.  I spared them only a glance, and I could feel pain and sorrow washing off of them.  I couldn’t help but feel a touch guilty, but right now, I was going to try and save their lives.

“Boos is bat?” the man asked around the hand on his nose.

I hit the button, and the armor opened with a pleasantly impressive whir and hiss.  “Mine!”

“Boo–?” the male Warden began to ask, only to be cut off by the woman’s cold, almost fearful voice.

“Jordan.”

“Damn fucking skippy,” I barked as I climbed out.  The movement, though, was too much.  I couldn’t take the heat any more and ripped the helmet from my head, tossing it to the ground.  “Oh, look at you two…”

“What happened to Gunner?”

“Doesn’t matter!  You two should be worried about yourselves right now!”  I worked at the seam on my armor, finally getting it torn open.  God, the open air felt so good right now.  “I mean, look at you!  Two Wardens, in cahoots with some wannabe dictator!”

Anger was getting the better of me as I pulled the neck piece over my head.  “You know, you two have everything!  Everything that I ever goddamn dreamed of in my whole fucking life, you know that?!  You’ve got powers of your own, you’ve got your position as Wardens!  I mean…

“Do you have any idea what I wouldn’t give for that right now?!”  Both of their eyes were going wide as I began to strip out of the upper half of my armor.  I didn’t take my eyes off of them for a second.  “You have everything, every fucking thing that I want!  I would do anything for what you have!  And then you have to go and screw the people here over?!  You had to get fucking greedy?!”

The man lowered his hand.  “Ib’s not like–”

“Shut the fuck up before I rip off both your arms and shove them up your ass!  I’ve already broken four limbs today, and I’m sure as hell eager to break some more!”

I grabbed my halberd off the ground, still glaring daggers.  “You disgust me!  You revolting pieces of shit!  I should…”  I took a breath.  Killing them wasn’t on the agenda.  “Alright, you have a choice!

“One!  On the ground, face down, hands behind your heads with your fingers interlocked.  I call the Wardens, and you two face the goddamn music.  Two!  I gut you and wear your goddamn head as a hat.”  I looked to the woman.  “And I destroy your brain while you do your goddamn Brute thing, leaving you a vegetable for the rest of your short life.

“Ten seconds.  Nine.  Eight.  Seven.”

The male Warden got onto the ground quickly, but the woman hesitated.  I held my halberd in both hands, taking up an aggressive stance.  “Six.  Five.”

She started to get down, too.  At least something was going right today.

As soon as they were both there, I looked to John.  “Ray gun on the mech.  Won’t kill ’em, but it’ll make them wish it would.”

He nodded quickly and hurried over to claim it.  I walked past the Wardens to Emi on the ground whimpering, where Brenda was stroking her back.  Brenda looked up to me, her eyes hidden.  “Concussion, I think.”

I glanced at the puke on the ground.  Yeah, I could believe that.  “I’ll be right back.”

I had to take it slow as I walked into the Warden’s building in order to keep the appearance that I was still fight-ready.  My own dizziness wasn’t helping matters any.  As soon as the door closed behind me, I focused on talking to Nexus.

He was standing in front of a window, looking down.  I crossed the office, past Mom, to stand next to him.  The vague shapes of people with axes walking with sheep into another part of the building could be seen below us.

“Is it done?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah.  I’m a little worse for the wear, but I’m about to make the call.  Can you get your people ready post-haste?  We need to get out of here ASAP, and they need to get the Tinker collected before he comes to and finds a way to blow up the city.”

Nexus nodded, finally looking over to me.  “Do you need help?”

I took a slow breath, thinking over before shrugging.  “I don’t know.  If we need anything, though, I’ll be in touch.”

He nodded once.  I took that as a dismissal, and turned to leave…

It wasn’t so much something that I experienced as it was remembering something that I had experienced.  No matter.  I staggered through the building until I found the transmitter, falling into the chair in front of it.  I knew all the protocols for calling the Wardens by heart, flipping the switches and turning the knobs even without being able to see them clearly.

“Rock Ridge Gimmel to Wardens HQ, please respond.”

“Wardens HQ,” a woman said over the radio.  “Go ahead, Rock Ridge Gimmel.”

“My name’s Jordan and I have a couple of Wardens that have surrendered to me, over.”

There was a pause.  “Say again, Rock Ridge?”

“Corrupt Wardens.  Don’t like ’em.  Can’t stand ’em.  So it’s either turn them over to you and tell you where you can find the evidence against them, or punish them myself.  There’s also a guy who is probably going to try and blow up the city.  Over.”

The woman spoke more slowly now.  “You say that your name is Jordan?  Over.”

I didn’t have time for this.  “Get.  Someone.  Here.  Now.  Out.”  I ripped the headphones off and stood, fighting another wave of nausea.  I was almost out the door when I heard people teleport in behind me.  Faster than I’d expected.

“Jordan!” I heard a woman call out to me.

“Out here,” I snarled, not stopping.

Kathy had already grabbed my discarded helmet and armor pieces, thankfully.  She was thinking ahead.  I motioned to where Emi and Brenda were huddled, and both she and John hurried over.

“Wait!”  I turned to look at the new Warden, who was carrying a foam gun.  Thankfully, she wasn’t pointing it at me.  “You…  You said something about blowing up the city.”

I pointed in the direction that I’d come from with the power armor.  “Follow the footprints.  Two tons on feet does a number on the soil.”  I looked down to the teleporter on my belt, hoping that it hadn’t been damaged.  “I’d suggest you hurry.”  Without waiting for a reply, I hit the button.

Immediately, we dropped a good three inches, standing just outside the safehouse.  “Get the door.”  As John hurried, I handed Brenda my halberd and gently picked up Emi, earning a new whimper out of her.  Didn’t matter.  It’d be better once we got her to the basement.

I barely got one foot in the door before I heard a man gasp.  “Dear Lord, what happened to you!”  I glanced, but it did nothing for my stomach.  Besides, I could see things up close, but he was just barely too far away to make out.

Instead, I ignored him as I carefully made my way downstairs.  Dropping Emi would do nobody any good at this point.  I was barely able to make it to the table before my strength gave out, setting her down a little harder than I’d intended.  As she curled up again, I put my hands on the table to brace myself, panting.  My arms were shaking pretty bad.

“What happened?”  He wasn’t giving up, was he?  I could hear more footsteps upstairs, heading our way in a rush.

“He got into a tangle with a Tinker,” John said.

“Is he okay?”

Kathy laid a gentle hand on my shoulder.  “Are you okay?”

“Blors,” I said as calmly as I could.

“What?”

I opened my eyes and looked at her.  She looked weird, like someone had drained the color out of her, but had done a half-assed job of it.  I glanced at the others to find that they were the same way.  Weird.  I wondered what happened to them.  It didn’t help that they all were shaking pretty badly.  Was there an earthquake or something?

“Wlrogk.  Baslep.”  I lifted my hand to make a so-so gesture at her.

Only, it seemed that my hand was the only thing that had been keeping me upright.  I fell too quickly for her to grab, smacking my head on the table as I went down.  With that, my vision went dark.

“Shit!”

“What…  Oh fuck!”

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know!  This is…  This is way beyond what we’ve been learning!”

“We need to take him somewhere with real doctors.”

“Fuck that, does anyone know the coordinates of Mother’s Hospital?”

“Jordan’s the one who knows all the coordinates.”

“Damn it!  Okay.  Your next assignment is going to be to figure that shit out.”

“Um…  I know that we work for him and not you, but…  I have an idea.”

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6 thoughts on “Enki 7.9

  1. Thank you for reading this chapter.

    This chapter was almost three hours late. Anything with italics takes extra time to edit for reasons, but beyond that, I just had a really difficult time conveying what I wanted with this one. How’s the tension in the corridor? I’m trying something new when I want to add tension. I may have to work with it more.

    The outer layer of Jordan’s armor is interesting. The molecules themselves are fascinating — one of the ways that Chris treats them is that he alters the molecular structure so that each atom forms four electron bonds. To put this into perspective, two nitrogen atoms form three bonds, and pretty much takes a lightning bolt in order to get them to separate. This is what makes azidoazide azides so insanely explosive, as they want to turn into such a stable state… explosively.

    Add to that the fact that the molecules also are aligned in a very precise pattern, far more precise than anything nature can create, and you have a recipe for a very resilient outer shell for the armor, despite its very thin nature. This is only a part of what helps protect Jordan from radiation.

    Only a part. There’s things that we didn’t see here because Jordan didn’t see them. We’ll get into that more next week, where we will finish the arc with an interlude.

    I’m sure Jordan’s fine. He just… slipped is all. Get him a glass of water and he’ll be right as rain.

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    • Well, we do know that he suffers from absence seizures at the very least. There have been other theories out there about what’s wrong with him, too.

      I’m not saying one way or the other, though. I’m just tossing out possibilities.

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    • With the shaking, vision issues, and especially the garbled speech that he displayed, I am actually leaning towards stroke.

      Signs of a stroke from the American Stroke Association:
      ” Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

      Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech

      Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes

      Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

      Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause”

      That all sounds like what Jordan has been dealing with. A quick google search reveals that transient ischemic attacks are also known as warning strokes, and that they are caused by temporary clots. They don’t necessitate an actual stroke, but 1/3 of people who suffer from a TIA will also suffer from an actual stroke within a year.

      Of course, these are all real world numbers and don’t take into account things like Tinker radiation or whole-body replacement surgeries. That said, Jordan definitely puts his body through the wringer enough that it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable injury to afflict him.

      Ritic, I personally enjoyed the tension you built up in the hallway. Seeing the mental struggle Jordan had to go through to make it past the pain worked out pretty well for me. The only slight criticism I have is that it was hard to tell how much of what he was going through was the direct result of the Tinker trap, and how much was his previous injury. I pretty much read it as a mix of the two, but it did throw me just a little bit off. I wish I could describe it better than that, but I can’t quite articulate it more, and it was overall a pretty minor thing.

      As always, I really enjoyed the chapter and can’t wait to finally learn just what has been happening.

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      • Believe it or not, that confusion was something that I was trying to accomplish, so I’m pleased by your difficulty with it. One of the things that I always have to juggle is trying to make things clear to the reader while putting it through the filter of the character; nobody in this story sees the objective truth.

        For example, Jordan doesn’t see the fact that his friends will steal drugs when they shake down cookers or dealers, then pawn them off to Fenix. They’re his friends, and so he makes certain assumptions about them that simply aren’t true. Trying to make that apparent to the reader without making it painful to read Jordan not getting it is a hard thing for me.

        When Jordan was protecting Chris from wildlings, we saw through his eyes the fact that they gave him difficulty. When Chris describes it later, though, he thinks that Jordan had it completely planned. Sarah’s first interlude also has moments where Jordan’s actions would have been depicted differently had we seen it from his point of view.

        In this case, I was trying to encourage how what was happening was blurred because of the pain that Jordan was going through, and how much he was quietly struggling with his other issues. You’re right that it’s a combination of the two — both were aggravated by the other. But because of Jordan’s mindset, he’s going to blur those lines.

        Show, don’t tell. Show that it is blurred without Jordan having to reflect on it. It’s tricky business to do without alienating the reader. I’m glad that I didn’t do it too heavily to make it unenjoyable. Thank you.

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        • See this is what Gina fears about, Jordan just does not have a pause button. Dude usually got Sarah to watch his back but his new team just do not have time to know all his quirks.

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