Viola the Demonslayer approached the street, stepped from the thick fog where I saw her blade rock on her metal hip. Archaic suit had new scratches from the fight, and the same were on the soldiers who followed her. Her hair changed color – it must be the ash and dust that stuck to her wet hair.
They all crossed the ruin of a building, but she already started pulling out from the armor. Her face told me she was in pain while doing so, but that was usual for someone who fought heavy duty Demons from the Wyvern clan.
“How did it go?” I asked still focused on a dust I drew in with a wrench and she gasped standing near me.
“They attacked the block, but I gave them not an inch of our turf. I killed a few of petty recruits, and the boys did the rest. Is Michael in his workshop? The bastards dented my battery pack and I have a loose wire in my shoulder.” She frowned combing her sticky hair.
“He just came back from the Market. He traded plastic and some trinkets for food and ammo. I intend taking my platoon on a scavenger hunt for resources. Wish me luck.” I tried to smile, but failed at it and she tapped me in a sign of encouragement.
“Scream if you see someone coming for you.” She added and now I was in full laughter.
Viola descended to the dark corridors of our modest base and came into neon light where our shop was build. Children played with the residue that fell from the table full of parts and wiring Michael tossed around, while music played from the ugly radio. Losing her breath, she sat on the bench and men hooked her suit for the hooks. One of them unscrewed her torso and the whole thing was lifted out of her.
“You always say that. Just veld it together and send me back on the street. I keep killing those guys, but their workshops are far bigger than ours. I bet they have teams of mechanics work on their soldier’s equipment, so stop bitching and get back to work.” She gnashed, took a whiff and pulled a deep breath.
“Topaz Wyverns are without the head to lead them. I demolished Zatar and Frenrer. Their Commander lies in dust without a head and half of the troops they brought are scattered in the city. My scouts know their business. It is not in vain. As long as we protect our own, it is never in vain.” Viola took a step around Michael, winked at him and parted ways with a gentle lean over the smelly mechanic that grazed her arm.
When Viola exited the workshop, the convoy of vehicles arrived to the base. Many soldiers jumped from the sides, their weapons still in hands. Instead of rushing to clean themselves, they went to the back and started pulling the body bags, stretchers and loot they took from the dead.
My group was barely formed on the street, but mission had to wait. We needed to bury the dead.
I waved at my deputy and he nodded knowing what I wanted to order.
“Grab the shovels and picks! Head north to the park!” His yelling at simple soldiers alerted the others who lived here and without words they all got back home and took what we needed for the ceremony.
There wasn’t a column to send off the dead, only a few crying women and children that knew the fighters who laid their lives so we could move on. I felt the tension in the group of warriors that responded only to Viola’s voice, and so I bowed my head not tempted to rush the questions about the battle.
Graves were not that deep, but we always had a cart full of concrete parts, bricks and rocks ready for this sort of things. Two civilians pulled the cart near the pit where the bags were placed and Viola stepped in the clear sight of the crowd.
“Rashid Onuz, Semyon Mirnaev, Chen Fang Lin, Anusha Sergeyevna, Tayron Berdwick, Roger Grinfield and others who flied with me into the battle, I thank you for your courage and lives you gave protecting the weak. I beg of you to watch over us, send us signs of trouble and protect us from the other plains where you will continue to fly as our battle Wings and gaze over the mortal world. I wish you the eternal bliss, my friends.” She said and threw some dirt over each body like the members of her team after her.
She stood at the end of the holes and watched the stream of people pass her, while the nervous soldiers passed a bottle of drink and had conversation, waited for the ceremony to end. As our customs dictate, I threw some dirt and waved the men to start covering the bodies. The Exo soldiers were kind enough to handle the chunks of armored concrete and stack them over the grave.
“My condolences Viola. You’ve lost plenty of soldiers in the last fight. Do you need some recruits? I have five to spare.” My facial expression spoke more than my words could ever, yet steel made maiden nodded and grinned at me.
“I don’t have time to train them. I don’t need your pity, not here, and not in this place. Save it for someone who gives a shit. They are far better heroes than any other idiot that roams the city. Be thankful, they saved all our asses.” Her tap on my shoulder wasn’t friendly as it looked, and I felt her anger in the squeeze of hand, where her double smile stood like a mask for what she really wanted to do to me.
After a quick exchange of looks, she went back with the chalk of men following her. The ceremony lasted for another hour where I sat on one pile of rocks and observed the park. Once this was a happy place where students came to read, old folk fed the pigeons, kids played on the swings and lovers kissed in the shade.
Now, the threes were cut for fire, the sidewalks were demolished for burial and land is cultivated for food where dotted out, the rock piles occupied almost the half of the park.
This is a place where we are all going to end in.
“You just wait Viola. I have plans for you too.” I said it to my self inserting a bullet in the barrel.
Burial was finished and I called my team to move. They picked up their gear and we headed out. I positioned my scouts on the front and two on the rear, while the rest rode on bikes behind us.
For today’s mission I’ve selected a block with the buildings who stood remotely still with the huge hills of concrete resting on their sides. Ruins were hiding a valuable loot, but I wasn’t taking a digging crew, so today, we had a mission ‘pick and roll’.
Holding on for the door, I let the wind play with my hair and guided the driver into the block I wanted to raid.
We disembarked the vehicles and teams of two dispersed over the ruins, while armed guards dug in the defensive positions outside. The cars kept moving away to hide in the empty bank hall and shops who were a home to various animals and rodents.
Juxtapose landscape of cold apartments, the black windows and dark shafts made the chill crawl up my spine, yet the warm colors of the Sun bouncing from a few standing windows gave me comfort.
“Watch out for the rogue snipers. They prey in their holes. Whatever moves in these condos, make it cold and full of lead.” I growled in the radio station and walked toward the entrance.
I lit a cigarette and took a stroll in the empty hallways, hearing my men raiding the rooms and breaking the locked doors. Stale air had a scent of dust, mold and a tone of stench signifying that a sewer pipe must’ve broke somewhere. There was glass under my boots and bullet casing – there was a fight in this building. This thought was solidified when I went inside the room where I’ve found a skeleton in rags lying on the floor.
“Don’t mind at us Sir. We are here to relieve you of your possessions.” I grinned at the skull and hit it with a cigarette butt, scoffed and prompted a rifle on my shoulder.
I tended to make a step, when I heard the knocks of heels behind the wall.
“That’s a woman. An old woman. I wonder what killed her first, the hunger, or an illness she couldn’t treat with medications. Drugs became expensive after the bombs and sick people had nothing to trade for it. You scavengers killed a ton of poor people. This is an age of rats.” A girl stepped out from the cover, showing her long leather boots, short skirt that complemented her figure and fishnet over her black t-shirt.
“Rudra. What the hell are you doing here?” I whispered coming closer, jumpy because her place wasn’t nowhere near this block. “If my men see you, they’ll shoot and you know I need to protect my ass. Get out.”
“I wanted to see you.” She smiled while her gentle hand slid down my chest. “Don’t defy your Mistress, slave. You haven’t called, nor let me know about your decision. What will it be? Will you kill Viola?” Her black lipstick called me for a passionate kiss, but I had to declined.
“Now?! The situation in the Wings are getting worse. I can’t take over the command over them just yet. Viola and that fucker Michael are running it tight. She won’t let me get close enough to her. I can only hope for some gang to make a move on us, so I can take aim at her. You need to wait.”
“Time is running out. My leader is not a patient guy, so have that in mind darling.” She said with a hurt on her face, touched mine and left the room.
Damn Viola and Demons!
“Sir! Sir! We have a situation outside.” The radio rustled and I stormed out from the room.
At the door, a man waited for me. He gazed at the end of the street while other guards held their gun sights on a ruble in the distance.
“What is going on?” I gasped and the nervous guy pulled me down by the collar.
“We have a ‘pregnant’ approaching our position. I told the crew to stop the movement.” He whispered and bit his lip.
“Send the drone.” I pointed at him and he nodded.
A short buzz launched a drone in the air. The drone flew in the middle of the street, changed altitude and whirled away into the fog. I watched at the girl with antenna sticking out from her backpack, but she didn’t peeled off her eyes from the monitor. Waiting for the news, even I became restless, but she looked at me and shrugged.
A burst echoed behind the corner and everybody stiffened up, ready for a fight. One moment later, we heard an engine roar, and after that a sound of squeaking caterpillars rolling. The fog concealed the assailant, but flashes of their guns let us know they were near.
“Fire, all positions!” I growled and pulled out my gun.
The defensive line rattled at the pale curtain, hitting something, and the fog spouted out a metal machine loaded with barrels.
“War Stains!” The boy in the front screamed while his cover was crumbling.
“Top floors, give them hell!” I hailed the crew who leaned over the windows and started peppering the tank.
Bullets made sparks upon contact, flares popped out from the machine and everything was engulfed in the smoke again. My team changed spots, kept repelling the enemy and the tank doors opened.
“The Canmen! They’ve released the Canmen!” Woman shouted from the window just before a rocket hit that place.
“Get the cars! Bring them here!” I ordered in the radio while waving at my team to pull back.
Metal soldiers with grenade launchers and machine guns were marching towards the building, their bodies painted in gang colors, wiring hanging from their limbs, many poorly assembled. They looked like a child’s work, like nobody took care to fix them properly – a zombie menace of the city.
Our cars came just in time with their heavy weapons flashing at the mechanic troopers. From afar, I heard an echoes of a heavy rifle, single shots that were breaking the robot plating, setting them in flames – forcing them to explode.
The fight lasted a minute longer, enough for us to get the rest of the machines on the ground, and for one team to sneak up to the tank and blow it up. The dome was taken by a strong flare hitting the sky, overheating the ammo inside and setting it loose. The fight was over and our drones went in the air to hunt down the gangsters who operated the Can-soldiers.
I stood up and lit another cigarette while my crew cheered the victory. We lived for another day. If War Stains keep ambushing us like this, one day they will find our base and I can use them to kill Viola. Michael will disapprove that, and I will kill him too. I’ll find another mechanic. Rudra’s Demons have a lot of them.
“How do you like my aim?” A girl with long hair, camouflage pants and strips with bullets sowed for her clothes came with an easy step and smiled and caressing the long sniper barrel.
“You saved us Soiba. I may need to have a word with you. There is a thing I need you to do for me.” I grinned gabbing her for the shoulder and leading her to the side.
Frightened that War Stains are regrouping for another strike, I set my men in the move. Wagons got stacked full with goods, the cars were filled with armed crew and guns were loaded with fresh ammo. Our pulling back commenced in the other direction to avoid the confrontation with the hostiles. My driver pulled up the armor on the windows, so I had time to think. Smoking like a train I drifted in my mind, calculating the Rudra’s words and planning to get rid of Viola – a woman who lead our gang.
I could drag War Stains to our base, and let them drew Viola out, but she will come with her suit on, that armored exoskeleton that will shield her from my bullets. That’s why I had Soiba with her sniper at my side. She doesn’t need to get closer. It will be easy to sacrifice Soiba after the assassination and there is nobody to stand in my way. Oh, there is Michael, a mechanic Viola holds spinning on her finger. He will be though to get to. The asshole never leaves workshop where he repairs the Canmen robots left from the war. Striking them both simultaneously will be a challenge. Fuck, how did I forget about that ass? Ugh, life is not fair.
“Sir. We are approaching our barricade.” The driver said and I absently nodded, still looking for a way to rid of the people who stood in my way.
The entrance went smooth and we went to the back, in the junkyard where we unloaded the cargo. Plastic, that will be used to boil it down with oil and make a distillation we will use as fuel for our vehicles. Metal, that will be used to make armor and robots. Wood, that we will use for fire. Clothes, we will ware them. Nothing goes to waste.
“Fine catch. This materials will use me fine. Where did you pick up these robots?” Michael limped towards the pickup truck, pointing at the enemy carcasses.
“War Stains gave them to us.” I said, irritated by his presence. “Could you build me a personal robot from one of these? Let me program it afterwards. I need a good scout in my team, and the drones have a short range.” I said while looking at Michael scratching his head, hissing about the idea I proposed.
“I’ll see what I can do.” He replied through a smile.
Prick, he doesn’t even know I want that robot to strangle him. A bad software, that is easy to blame.
I nodded, grinning at the man who looked me as a friend. Now for Soiba to do her job and clear the way for me to assume the lead.
Dog howl passed the street along with the fireflies that flew from one barrel on fire to the other where guards waited to change the shift. The wind rolled a plastic bag on the road, dust tried to catch it, but failed and smothered the air. Night. A period when animals were in the move, the predators in hunting. Demons don’t sleep. They just breath in the powder and keep moving to target. Viola’s Battle Wings are in their crosshair, but they hesitate to advance. Rudra’s team are waiting for me to make a move.
“Why don’t you get inside? The weather is chilly to sit here all alone.” Soiba sat next to me, made noise with the stock of her sniper.
“I am making plans Soiba. Michael won’t rest until his work is finished and Viola is onto me. She might know what are my plans.” I said, blew the smoke and threw the cigarette but. “She doesn’t understand me. I am not a bad guy in this story. I am something else.” I added with a stiff lip that signified the restless mind.
“She will if you approach her the right way and pick your lines. She is a person of reason and logic. She will understand.” Comforting words from someone who lived to kill wasn’t sounding so reassuring to me at this point, the last night we had peace.
“I tried to show her the other way, but her principles are strongly rooted and she won’t budge to rethink about what I told her. She uses courage and honor as her shield, but it only blinds her. That’s why we live in the mist.” I scratched my head and cracked my fingers – fighting the nervous feeling that something bad will happen.
“Then, I will clear her head with a bullet for you. She can’t defy you like that. Just give me the signal and see your plans come true.” Now a smile tried to comfort me, but it only placed pressure on my mind, a heavy thought that even with Viola out of the picture, a bad thing can follow, a total annihilation of the Battle Wings, betrayal of Rudra and final attack of Ruby Demons.
With a glance at the Soiba’s happy face, my hand running over her shoulder and a gentle smile, I rose up and went inside. Michael will build me a combat android and soon, they will all kiss the dirt under my boot. Soon, I am taking the Battle Wings.
I left Soiba with a command to find a good spot tomorrow and wait for Viola to step out into the battle. Rudra’s ultimatum was nearly over and she will move her unit against Battle Wings. This will be my turning point. But I need to make the preparations if I wanted my plans to fulfill.
Inside the Michael’s modest workshop, I’ve found him working on the details with the android I brought him. Not knowing my plans I have for him and the robot, he gave his best to repair the bullet holes, patch the broken metal and rewire the Canman. Standing on the doorstep, I saw him limp from one side of the table to another, fetching bolts and tools under neon light.
“Burning the midnight oil, I see.” I greeted him and he turned to see me in my combat suit.
“Yeah. This was a challenge to fix, but I managed to make it right. It’s almost operational. All you need to do is to turn it on. But be careful, I haven’t programmed it, so it might attack you.” He said still busy with the robot in front of him.
I looked around the room, seeing if this was my chance to get rid of him while he is all alone. Slowly the hidden knife came out from the back of my belt as I stepped towards him.
“Don’t worry. I will put it to good use. No mistakes from now on.” I slithered the words getting near him.
“You better not make a mistake. You lead the scavengers. And we constantly need fresh materials.” Viola’s voice froze me as I haven’t noticed her trying out her suit right from me.
Luckily, her back was pointed at me and she didn’t see a knife in my hand. I gently placed it back in the holster and unwillingly grinned at the bitch.
“I haven’t seen you standing there. Hmm, I guess you are right. Fresh materials do make a life easier. Glad to be of help.” A pompous words from a rat, yet she didn’t mind it. She must’ve been in a good mood.
“We can use all the help we can get right now. The Demons are growing bigger by the night. It’s only question of time when will they turn their guns at us. We must be ready to face them. Tell your people to stay put and don’t leave the area. My scouts registered the movement outside our post. It looks like a Demon unit is close by.” She said and combed her hair backwards to see me idly standing there.
“Will do that Commander. I will pass the word around. We will be ready for their advance.” I bowed and leaved the room.
Trying out the suit was only a pretext for them to meet, hug and kiss. Not many Demonslayers prepare for the fight that way, yet who am I to comment on that, I wasn’t anywhere close to her rank.
Programming the android just went bust. I couldn’t do it while they hang over my shoulder and look at my choices. This leaves me only one thing to do. Let the Demons do it for me, annihilate the base, kill Michael and let me rule the block.
Plan only got modified. This isn’t over. There are a few more hours until the big clash, and I am counting the minutes.
On the first light, the scout breached from the ramp panting and barely standing. He fell right at the feet of the guard and let him see the wounds he had on the back. A long rim on the man’s body spoke that he was attacked by a blade – the weapon of Demons.
“To battle stations! The attack! Demons!” Poor sentinel drummed up the alert that drag out the firing squad to their position.
Mist maniacally dispersed before the huge man wrapped in metal, a steel grid over his muzzle. Behind him, a line of men came out gun’s blazing and a swarm of drones buzzed away at us. Dominant color of their armor was so distinctive, I instantly knew they must’ve been from the Ruby Demons – the Rudra’s lot.
“Don’t hold back boys. Fire!” I pointed at the enemy and fusillade of bullets started raining at the enemy.
Viola stepped from the darkness of the workshop, rose her sword up and a unit of androids broke through the shadows – fire in their hands. Total battle have begun when trucks parked near the sidewalk and opened fire from their backs stacked full with rockets and machine-gun nests.
Shadows of the ruins, still, motionless and silent got corrupted with the long barrels sticking out from the dark and fell to work. Our men started falling grazed in blood until our Canmen came closer to play a ballistic shield for them. Our line haven’t budged, but Demons gave land to our charge. Those guys on the bikes were extremely fast for the confused enemy that didn’t knew what to do, where to aim, whom to shoot.
It they were Demons, we were about to show them how the Hell looks like. Middle-ground started looking like a complete carnage and Demons high and low fell to dust. Even with initial attack has failed, Demons had more men to spare than us. Soon we got overwhelmed with the sheer number of Demons frontally coming at us, and that’s the time Viola stepped forward to stall them until we barricade in.
I gave signal to Soiba to eliminate Viola while I started running for the workshop to relieve Michael of his breath. Just when I was to get inside, a Soiba’s shot echoed and a bullet hit me in the leg.
“What the fuck Soiba?!” I growled at her, but her reply came with another shot in the already wounded leg.
The battle became awfully silent, so I turned around to see what is going on. To my surprise, Viola stood in the middle, her blade drying up from the blood she spilled and Rudra facing her on the opposite side.
“Your Battle Wings fought bravely today. Shame to kill so many loyal fighter for a goal you don’t believe in. My Commander sends his regards. Demons shall attack you no more.” Rudra proclaimed in calm while angry Viola stared at the girl, turned her frowned face at me and started to stomp for my head.
“Tell me traitor! Why did you wanted me dead?!” Viola stopped and lifted her blade ready to cleave my head off on the first sound.
“Because I wanted to join the Demons and save lives, you dumb bitch! If you can’t beat them, joint them!” I groaned shading myself with a stretched hand, but her face didn’t made change.
“You’ve been disloyal to the Wings. I saved your ass when you were nothing more but a drifter, and this is how you reward my kindness? This is your last day in the gang! I am banishing you as long as you live! Did you understand, maggot?! You are gone!” She screamed at me, and screamed at the sky some more.
Michael came to the door, saw me lying under his feet, kicked me in the face and spat in my direction.
“Rudra my dear. You wound’t hurt your father, wound you? This war changed us all and this outpost is far away from the Cage’s interest. We are living on the border with nothing beyond this place. Cage doesn’t need total control over us. Leave in piece and tell her I sent my regards.” Michael smiled at the Rudra whose face shined with serenity.
“Why don’t you tell her yourself?” Rudra smiled and huge Demon breached from the group, removed it’s helmet and showed a face of an middle-aged woman.
“It hurts me to pretend I am a man, but illusion proved to be useful in times of war. Glad to see you Michael. And I am sad because you left our ranks. If you’ve approached us sooner, this collision could be avoided.” The woman known as Cage spoke calmly as she came closer to greet her old friend.
“There are units that portray as Demons, but are not under your command. The reputation you hold became something others use to fear the weaker gangs, so I din’t knew if I could trust the lot that lingered in our vicinity.” Michael prompted a half smile, nervously looking at the fearless leader of Demons.
“No need for lamentations dear friend. My Demons do clash with those copycats. We only wanted order in this city, not all out war between the blocks. Your people are under our protection now. There shall be no more fighting among the Wings and Demons. I will redraw from this area, but my teams will occasionally come visit you. Let us establish the communication and see if we can help each other.” Friendly hug and Michael started leading Cage inside, when I groaned with pain.
“What about him?” Soiba asked coming in sight.
“Leave him to me.” An evil sounding Rudra’s voice replied when she knelled near my head. “I haven’t had a slave in a long time. I’ll have lots of fun with this one.” She said removing blood from my nose. “I hope you like pain, because you are gonna get a lot of it.” She added with a nasty grin that made me sweat.
I was played from the start. My plans for the Wings weren’t the most noble, but it could save lives. And here I lay bleeding, waiting to be used in grotesque ways that Rudra has known to perform. Dear God, help me.
This post has almost 5000 words, so it is a long-read story.