Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Agents of Us - Killswitch

At first there was the sense of heaviness, like a boulder rested on top of her body. The next sense came suddenly like a surge of electricity races from her feet to the top of her head. She was cold. Next she could feel that she was exposed, completely naked. Finally she could feel the nerve endings running down the middle of her torso were tingling and warm not just on the outside but on the inside as well.

Sounds and smells followed. A steady rhythmic, mechanical breathing and a low beep reminded her of the hospital where her grandmother had died. The small too was sterile and cold, so very much like the room where she had sat watching her only living relative slipping away.

Sight was the last sense to awaken and slowly. First there was only black and then a gray muddled world without color or form. Things, strange things took shape, and the dimensions of the small room took shape, though still clouded by an addled and drugged mind.

She had been sight-seeing along the coast of Nevu'memelli Unguli'do in the south of Quio, the second largest Gob'Jaffer world. During the day she strolled along the concourses of the Markets overlooking the chocolate brown seas of the Unguli'do, taking pictures of the inhabitants who lived very much like the first settlers to Quio did a thousand years before, slaves of the Tu. She tasted ancient delicacies and purchased rich linens she's wear the next day. The days were light and airy.

At night she danced with the lower castes around bonfires built atop the great cliff that stood like sentinels overs the port cities of Hu, Tra, and Wot. Hundred of fires dotted the hills those hills, thousands surrounded the flames, while the dour upper classes shook their fists and hurrumped from their places of power at the ancient tradition.

Amongst the crowds whispered the treasonous words, the seditious words... Liberty... Equality. Young women pulled at the ears of young men to whisper them. Old men debated their meaning. Mothers held their young and discussed the means to implement them. The winds of change wiped up the flames of the bonfires and of the collected hearts of the downtrodden. Of the...

Pain sheared across her stomach to her neck. What feeling she had told her that her insides were missing, so she strained to raise her head and look down. She was completely naked, her brown skin flayed away from her belly button to her throat, the flaps of skin held open by armatures, and inside where organs should have been were tubes connected to arteries and openings normally reserved from things like the heart, stomach, or lungs. She felt faint, but forced herself to follow the tubes and was rewarded to see them connected to metal bays to her left and her right. She could not see inside, but she could guess that her organs rested inside.

"You are not a Gob'Jaffer."

A long and lean form stood in the now open doorway. He was old and wrinkled, but his bright blue eyes shined brightly and his bearing suggested energy and vigor.

"You're a spy, that much is obvious, but for whom and for what purpose? I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of taking you apart. A hobby of mine, to keep the mind fresh."

Doj Verroanak.

He had greeted her politely as she entered his home. It had taken years to get the invite, even longer to arrange a time in his hectic schedule, and now she was walking into his spacious home located far off into the wilderness of Quio. It was very modern, multi leveled, and no doubt full of secrets. How could it not when it held the greatest mind of the Gob'Jaffer race?

"Oh, yes, there are many secrets in this and my many other homes."

His guards eyed her closely, their staffs ready to strike at the smallest sign of threat.

"You of course wish to learn them? No need to deny it. You've been more persistent than any of the others and that has intrigued me. Indeed you have intrigued me greatly Jin Eleastra. In a world of castes you seem to be casteless. In a world where women are defined by their ferocity in battle or by the number of young they've hatched you are defined by nothing. You, Eleastra, are an oddity."

"My mother was very much the same. Had my father not been as persistent I would never had been."

"Are you hatched," he asked. The Doj Verroanak walking beside her in the sun lit hallways of his expensive home was replaced by the Doj Verroanak standing over her, studying her exposed body in some laboratory.

She could not reply.

"It doesn’t seem possible, based off of your construction. I see no pouch for gestation, unless this orifice holds it. Of course, the Dine do not hatch. They are a species that suffers live birth and you're arrangement resembles theirs very closely. However you lack the redundant heart and lungs of the Dine. I dissected many Dine during the Contact Wars, that long period where star nation after star nation bumped into one another with haphazard first steps.

"If not a Dine, then perhaps a Wessslefff? You have an obvious gender though, so that seems unlikely. There are two extinct or near extinct races you could be; Voth or Subbok, but you have neither the height nor the elongated neck. Constructive surgery is a possibility, but your body shows no indication of such. Such a procedure would require delicacy and precision neither the Voth or Subbok were known to possess."

Verroanak used a long metal rod to poke at different parts of her insides, talking to himself in a soft voice as he did so. She strained to hear him.

"I am at your disposal of course, since you've worked so hard to gain my time. There is one question I would like answered."

She leaned forward on the seti to listen as he spoke softly.

"Is your intent to kill me or gain my trust?"

"Doj Verroanak I can assure you I have nothing but respect for you and your work. I want nothing more than to record for posterity your life so all can understand and marvel at the long and fruitful life you've had. I could no more kill you than I could kill a star, it is simply beyond me."
Verroanak continued to poke.

"You sought to gain my trust then or at least plant your listening devices. Clever, but not clever enough for the greatest mind in the universe to suss out. Your association with the dung around their fires of sedition aroused my suspicion, so I had you followed and watched. Curiously some of the best men in my retinue simply disappeared whenever they were tasked with watching you. It became a pattern that I thought I had worked out. You were a rebel, working with the rabble to overthrow the Jed, and so my choice was clear. I would draw you in like a vii and then spring my trap. Of course it worked, but it appeared my hypothesis was wrong.

"You were no rebel. You were something else." Verroanak smiled a wane smile. "Even my great mind cannot conceive all options and the possibility that you were some interstellar provocateur... shows that there is still so much for even I to learn."

"My examination of you is almost complete however and I'm afraid I am needing to return to the pressing research I abandoned before the might Jeb'relesh handed you to me. There is one final bit of information I'd like to gather before I hand you over to the Jed. You might find this interesting actually. You see, we are each born under the light of a star and that star has its own frequency, its own song if you will. No matter where you are that song still rings in you."

Verroanak picked up a metal fork and tapped it to her knee. He then placed it on a pad.

"Match the song to its star and we answer the burning question of who you are? Interesting... the frequency doesn't match and known world... unsurprising, so we'll expand the parameters..."


"What was that?"

"Earth," she said, forcing strained voice muscles to speak. There was a soft crunch in his mouth and then she smiled a faint smile.

"A name, no doubt a falsehood, but it bodes well to your... what's this? A match at last." He turned the pad so she could see it, it showed a blurry image of a yellow star. "Your Earth? I look forward to visiting it so I can validate some of my findings."

Verroanak looked very pleased with himself and even patted her on the head. "Goodbye Jin Eleastra, you've been a wonderful diversion."

"Janice," she whispered.

Verroanak heard nothing.

* * *

"Spectrum activated Captain."

He looked to his comm officer and then turned to his weapon's officer. "Spectrum Protocol Mister Bruce."

She went to work immediately and a few seconds later the ship shuddered. The Captain put his head in his hands and closed his eyes.

"Open ship wide comms please."

"Comms open."

"All hands. All hands." He paused to steady his voice. "Spectrum has been activated; Agent Wobbart has activated her killswitch. Recall all recovery teams and set condition two. Thank you all for your diligence and effort."

The comm officer cut the feed after the Captain left a pregnant pause. They all watched the large heads-up-display that tracked Spectrum's trajectory.

"I'm sorry Janice," he whispered.

* * *

"The planet-wide sensor network is being examined to find how a space object could have entered atmosphere without warning. The tragic loss of life is unacceptable and those who failed in their duty have already begun the purifying rituals. While many will wish to mourn close to the site, we do also ask that the area be given a wide berth as radioactivity has been detected. Appropriate sites have been erected by the Jed in safe zones in accordance with Safety Officials and due custom. Please now join the Jed in the mourning ritual for Doj Verroanak and the others who lost their lives here." Ruin Calthro took the vii venom and poured it along his forearm, the acid instantly attacking the exposed skin. As one all who gathered did the same, their muted moans of pain mingled with the ashes that still rained down from the site of the asteroid impact that had vaporized Doj Verroanak's home.

Logo credits - Circles graphic by Freepik and Agent graphic by Picol from Flaticon are licensed under CC BY 3.0. Made with Logo Maker

Monday, October 26, 2015

I Watch the Skies

              Running a country takes having the right mindset, having the right team, and a lot of luck. It’s never easy or simple – are the Russians for us or against us? Did an element of the United States kill their own President? Why does the U.K. want our blood? Aliens is the best answer to all those questions and you’d think being one would help make those answers more clear, but I see I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Daniel, Ryan, Cameron, and myself - Team Japan
             Saturday, three friends and I played the MegaGame “Watch the Skies” with about 40 other people – each serving in different roles in different countries, or as news reporters, or even as aliens. The setup of the game is that aliens are real and each nation needs to deal with that fact. Will they fight the aliens? Join them? Underhandedly collect DNA from cards you handed out to figure out who is an alien and who is not? The possibilities are endless as each team can define its own agenda – even if it breaks the “game”; in fact you are encouraged to break the “game”.

We were Team Japan; Ryan our Head Scientist, Cameron our Military Commander, and Daniel our Foreign Secretary, and I was Prime Minister leading the “Calm is Strength” Government. Each of us had our own game to play within the game itself. As PM I held the purse strings, deciding where to place our precious resources each turn therefore setting our nation’s agenda. As Head Scientist Ryan was tasked with collecting research and completing our nation’s primary goal PROJECT GUNDAM (more on that later). Cameron had the difficult task of placing our Advanced Interceptors and Advanced Tactical Squads on response to flying saucers and abduction squads; he also tasked our Secret Agent who turned the U.K. spy the very first turn, disarmed a nuke in Angola, and double-crossed the British when he assassinated the U.K. PM after he paid us to kidnap the Russian Military Commander. Last but not least was our Foreign Minister Daniel, who sat through grueling United Nation’s meetings serving as Japan’s public face on the world stage.

The game started slow, our plan was to remain neutral yet helpful in the world, but to acquire alien technology to complete PROJECT GUNDAM. Our agent found 100 special candidates within our borders that we started training in special high schools. We were starved for technology though; while Cameron shot down an alien craft his operatives failed to recover any tech. The first two rounds were disappointing in this regard, so we went to the Gray Market to buy alien tech. That allowed us to jump start our research. Meanwhile Daniel learned of a plague in Uganda which he pledged our willingness to take in refugees – who we shifted through for more special pilots.

In proceeding turns the other nations’ actions became difficult to decipher. The U.K. wanted to test people’s blood to see if they were aliens. Russia wasn’t fighting the aliens. The U.S. declared to the world that aliens were real. It was difficult to know who to trust and with what information. You learned to not only appreciate the worth of information, but also the cost – does revealing this information reveal my intentions or imply something I didn’t consider or intend. Decisions were made by implication; for example: failing to shoot down a saucer one turn implied to the rest of the world that we were far more complicit with the aliens than we actually were.

Eventually Ryan succeeded in creating détente and collected the much needed power source for PROJECT GUNDAM from the Brazilians. Sadly here is where we made our misstep though – we announced the completion of PROJECT GUNDAM to the world and then we failed to anticipate foreign agents being used to sabotage them. Had we used our agent to protect our mechs the final battle would have turned out very differently. Despite this Japan was left on excellent footing, the Gundams could be repaired, we were masters of Science, and Daniel had usurped the UK’s position on the Security Council in the UN gaining Veto power. Sadly Daniel was vaporized when the escaping saucer was destroyed with him in it.

Some advice I would give future Watch the Skies players is to have a goal to work towards; whether that is giant fighting robots, secretly assassinating every Head of State, or building an undersea lair have that plan in mind and go to the game controllers with it. The unscripted, improve nature of the game means no-one is there to hold your hand, so you need to take charge and at least have a starting point. Secondly, use Whats-App or another messaging app to stay in the know. I don’t know how many times we collectively knew things before the other teams (like when the US President was assassinated, Daniel actually gave his condolences before the US Foreign Minister had heard the news). Finally, look the part. Team Japan all wore suits and red ties to create a united front. It made it easy for us to be identified and it gave us an air of credibility. The paper lantern and home-made mochi also helped sell the fiction. You’re not going to get the chance to be the Prime Minister of Japan any other time in your life, why not live it up while you can?

So final highlights that probably make no sense out of context:
·       Cameron’s brilliant play to turn the U.K.’s agent on the very first turn. We didn’t get a lot out of it, but we knew when their agent was killed.
·       Still having no idea who nuked China.
·       Still being clueless about who assassinated the US President.
·       Revealing that I was also an alien right after Ryan did and after I had been funneling money and interrogating a live alien for my own ends.
·       Getting a Haiku published in the GNN Newspaper
·       Brazil becoming a world power right under everyone’s noses
·       Seeing the biggest smile on Control’s face when I told him we’d built Gundams piloted by unstable high schoolers.

If you get the chance to do a MegaGame, any MegaGame really, get your friends together, make a plan, and sign-up I think you’ll enjoy it. Learn more about our local group the Bellingham MegaGame here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Danger Zone!

I had this scene just sort of came together on my commute home this week so I thought I'd write it up while it was still fresh. Its a little silly, enjoy.

They had come in the Winter, an envoy from Ferndale and the first contact we'd had with flesh and blood from outside our city limits since the Fall. They called it the Crash, which was just the first point divergence between the two of us. The laundry list of demands had led us here, standing on rows across from one another in an empty field. 

Thirty of us and fifty of them - paltry numbers compared to most wars, but this was our first and felt big enough to us as it was. We'd spent the rest of the winter and spring building defenses and training. I'd pushed for archers, so we'd raided the sports store of all its bows and arrows and trained in the snow and rain until all thirty men were proficient archers. 

We could only assume they had done the same, although I could see no bows in their front ranks. They were a formidable sight though, all dressed in blue with yellow armbands around their right arms and lined up in perfect formation. Our hodge-podge dress and loose formation left a little to be desired. It was either train to shoot or train to stand pretty - we felt the former was more useful. 

I could feel them all looking at me, standing in front of everyone like some warlord from a by-gone era. They shifted constantly, their eyes darted from the otherside to me and then to their brother or friend beside them - weighing the incalculable in their minds. Should I stay or should I go? 

I heard the song start to play in my head and it made me smile. I would probably never "hear" that or any other song again but the memory would always be there. 

The men from Ferndale parted to let a man come forward. He turned to his own men and started to speak. He talked about strength, giving it all on the battlefield, fighting for their families... it sounded like something a football coach would say right before the big game and then I recognized the man - he was the high school football coach. 

His speech done and the ranks of the enemy firmly emboldened it was now my turn to do the same for my men - farms, store clerks, contractors, and day laborers. I had no speech, no word for the men; the song was still playing and muddling my thoughts. They looked to me, some with pleading eyes, but I just stood there. Then my head cleared and a new song started. I couldn't think of a speech so I just opened my mouth and let the song come out. 

"You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips..." 

Eyes that were plead where now wide with wonder - they had followed a mad man. 

"...and there's no tenderness anymore in your fingertips..." 

The more stoic among the group kept their eyes focused on the enemy but I could see that they were starting to mouth the words. 

"...you're trying hard not to show it..." 

"Baby," several men sang out. Their voices were uncertain and weak. 

"...but baby..." 

"Baby I know it!" More voices joined the choir. 

Then they all joined. "You've lost that loving feeling! Oh, the loving feeling. You lost that loving feeling... and now its gone... gone... gone... ohhhhhh!" 

The were boisterous and half sang with reckless abandon, giving themselves over to the song and the memories. 

Someone else took over the second verse. 

"Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you! If you would only love me like you use to do!" 
The men were swaying to the rhythm that was only in their minds. 

"We had a love... a love... a love you don't find every day! So don't... don't... don't... don't let it slip away!" 


"BABY!" The call caught us all by surprise. It had come from across the field. We held for a half second and then responded. 



"I need your love!" 

"I need your love!" 

"So bring it on back!" 

"So bring it on back!" 

Then, despite all the animosity, fear, and division between our two groups, arrayed on the field of battle we all in unison sang out with gusto, "Bring back that loving feeling... ohhhh, that loving feeling..." 

I let the others sing and instead watched the men from Ferndale. They were singing with enthusiasm and even hamming it up like we all remembered Goose, Iceman, and all the rest did in our collective memories. I smiled for perhaps the first time since the Fall. The song was starting to come to its end. Each side was echoing the other with the tune of the song, fading little by little just like the song did - we had remembered it perfectly.  

One of the men from Ferndale yelled, "Watch out for the cockpit Goose!" Eighty men who had marched out from their homes for war that morning were now all laughing together. 

"Thank you God," I prayed aloud. 

I started towards the other side, my arms up and hands empty. They all met me half way and I shook the Football Coach's hand.

As always, let me know what you think, like, shares, and retweet. And remember to light the fires and burn the tires! DANGER ZONE!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Despite the Darkness #11

Previously, the thing was dead but the shot hit Steve's son Isaiah as well and now he's hanging to life by a thread.

“Gentle! Gentle!” Jan’s voice was brisk and controlled; her face was impassive and tight. It was a mask she put on regularly, one he realized he saw only rarely. She took the First Aid kit one of the men had pulled from her overnight bag and set to work clearing Isaiah’s shirt from the lacerated stump that had been his arm. “Do you have a doctor or any other medically trained personnel?”

“Bud was… Bud was a Navy Corpseman… but he’s dead,” Stu said weakly. He was slumped in the corner, sitting on the floor and staring off into the darkness outside the window.

“Phone’s dead,” he reported as soon as he entered the room. “What do you need me to do?” He stood in the doorway, his son white and cold on top of a slab of fir turned into a dining table in the haus, his wife probing the wound, clearing it, and stabilizing her own son as best as she could with meager supplies, and he stood there… waiting.

“He needs a doctor and NOW!”

“OK, besides the phone what options do we have?” He looked to Stu who refused to meet his eyes. He moved in front of Stu, squatted down so their eyes were level and fixed the man with a firm gaze. Evenly he asked, “Is there a radio or something else we can use to call for help?”

“Ain’t nobody coming to save us…”

“Stu. I am going to ask again and you are going to answer me. Is there a radio or something else we can use to call for help?”

“Ain’t nobody…”

“There’s a radio up at the dam!”

“Nobody going to get here in time… we’re all dead.” Stu’s head fell to his chest and he wailed, his one good hand cradling his head.

“Anyone at the dam?”

“Sure, the 2nd shift’s up there or at the bunk house… the bunk house! Stu! Stu! What about all them up at the bunk house?”

“How many?”

“Four guys.”

“You know how to run the radio?” The man nodded. “Good, you’re coming with me. Pick two others to come with us and meet me outside in five.”

The man hesitated, looking to Stu and then Isaiah, he looked ready to suggest a lesser alternative but then he put his arm on his shoulder. “Hey! Hey! Focus on me. Pick two men and meet me outside. You understand?”

The man walked out slowly and then pointed to two men who were huddled behind a couch they were using for cover.

“I’m going for that radio,” he said to Jan.


“I’ll come back.”


“Like lambs to the slaughter…” Stu muttered.

Next time more stuff happens. Remember to comment, like, favorite, and share.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Despite the Darkness #10

Last time, several weeks ago, Steve and Stu had a little man chat, but then something attacked and another person fell to the unknown terror stalking our helpless cast of characters. 

Rifles, handguns, and shotguns all fired into the darkness, falling ineffectually in the snow to the right or burrowing into the side of the A-frame. The men inside called out, but their cries were drowned out by the reports of the firearms, so the firing continued indiscriminately. Jan pulled Isaiah away from the group, putting them between her son and perceived threat.

“Stop shooting you idiots,” Stu yelled as he ran off to stop them. He followed a step later. The shooting was dying off, but then something brushed against the chainlinks of the baseball backstop, so the firing swiveled that direction and renewed in intensity and then another sound - this time at the corner of the building where Mitchel’s body lay. The guns swung straight at the two men.


He tackled Stu to the ground and held him down; there was a snap that was almost imperceptible as two rifles fired only factions of a second later. The hot lead ripped over their heads, the sound like two angry wasps – reminding him of the time he’d upset a wasps nest at his grandfather’s place. He’d ran to the pond and jumped in, but even underwater he could hear the irate wasps moving back and forth just above the water.

“I am going to kill the next man who fires his weapon with my… own… bare… hands,” Stu started to force himself up, but he fell back down into the snow with a sharp yelp. “My arm! You broke my arm!”

Stu rolled over and cradled his wrist close to his chest. Before the others could react, Jan ran up and started to assess the injury.

“I’m a nurse. Let me see your hand.” Jan’s voice was firm and commanding. Stu gingerly gave her his hand. The slightest motion caused him to cry out, even placing back it on his chest caused Stu to growl out a curse. “We’ll need to splint it and get you to a doctor.”

“Ain’t no doctor for miles,” Stu said through gritted teeth.

“What do we do, Stu?”

“We stop shooting at every little thing, is what we start…” Something heavy stepped on part of The Dambuster’s tin roof. Everyone turned and their weapons discharged. A dark shape jumped from the edge and crashed down atop one of the men – he screamed as yellow teeth bit into his shoulder. It was all happening so fast the men took no time to think, they just shot… wildly.

Some rounds hit the thing, which looked like a tangle of gray fur with powerful arms and legs. It yelped and let go of the man, back up and then lunged at another but was arrested when a 12-guage slug struck it in the shoulder. The scream was piercing and feminine. This new surprise shocked the men again, so the firing stopped. This gave the thing the opportunity to run, turning towards The Dambuster it started to limply run forward. Stu reached out for the shotgun lying beside him and with a single hand he raised the weapon, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

The sound was deafening but the scream still over powered it. The heavy slug struck the thing square in the chest, dropping it instantly in the snow. The scream continued, only changing in tone and pitch as new voices began their own. First it had been the thing, then it was someone else, and then it was Jan.

He was up and moving first, the scream was throwing his balance off and his steps were unsteady. He was shaking and his head throbbed. He stepped over the still body of the thing and fell to his knees beside Isaiah.

“I love you dad.” That thought, those words, spoken a millions times before echoed in his mind. Isaiah lay in the snow; his right arm was spread across the snow, splayed open and held together by a few fleshy strands of flesh and muscle. His red blood pooled under him and his skin was already turning pale.

“No. Oh, God, no! Oh, God! Oh, God!” It was equally prayer and curse. I love you dad.

That was tough to write. I'm just going to let it hang there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Despite the Darkness #9 - My, My, My Mitchel

The name Mitchel will forever be tied to the MST3K sendup of the movie also named "Mitchell", so please forgive my little nod to that in the title. From here on out it serious business.

Last time... Steve and Stu found Lola hiding in the Dambuster, but then shots were fired outside and Steve raced out to protect his family.

He threw himself against the door frame, took a breath, and then peeked out. A good way to get yourself killed was to run out a dark doorway unannounced while a bunch of yahoos were shooting at God knew what.

“Coming out,” he yelled and he slowly came out with his hands raised. A gun swung over his way but then the man embarrassingly turned it away. Jill and Isaiah were still huddled together in the center of very skittish men, all pointing their weapons up the road and even firing occasionally.

“She got Mitchell!”

He looked down the road and saw the body about twenty yards away sprawled out, its arms and legs at odd and unnatural angles.

“What happened?”

“He was checking something out, went off on his own, and then something pounced on him from the roof – gotta be Lola!”

“It ain’t Lola,” Stu growled, emerging from the inside of the bar with Lola in his arms. “Whoever and whatever it is going to pick us off one by one if we let it, so none goes alone. Nick, Benny, and Duncan go check out the first haus, we need to get inside and out of the open.”
The three men looked long and hard at Stu before nudging one another towards the A-frames.

“Where did the thing go,” he asked the man he’d been talking to, noticing his wife’s mouth drop open and the hurt in her eyes out of the corner of his own.

“Back up the roof, I think I got it.”

“You can’t hit a barn Trent,” Stu interjected, he then forced Lola into his arms and unslung his own rifle. “Come with me,” Stu said and fixed him with a cold gaze. The two separated from the group.

“Steve,” Jill called after him, but the two men continued on.

“Go check on Mitchel,” Stu motioned with his rifle when they got close. He stepped closer and kneeled down beside the torn remains of the man. Four great gashes rand from his right hip to his left shoulder from which his insides were splaying out of.

“He’s dead.”

“Get his gun.” He picked up the old shotgun that had been thrown away in the attack. As soon as it was in his hands the familiar scream started to build up again and his eyes were drawn to the buck, intricately carved into the dark wood stock. The buck moved its head, perhaps picking up their scent. It was a magnificent elk, easily a twelve points – an old soul of the forest. It swept the woods and then its black eyes found him and the scream was all he heard.

“Hey!” Stu yanked the shotgun out of his hands. “I said give it here.”

He stood up, shaking and sweating, but refusing to meeting Stu’s watching gaze. Stu laughed, it was a short and biting laugh that held no mirth or warmth. “I almost believe you have a soul.”

He looked away again, the scream had died away when Stu had taken the gun, but hadn’t fully abated; now it started to build up strength again. He looked to Jill, but she was purposefully avoiding looking his way. Isaiah was watching however and his lips were moving. The scream stopped suddenly, the resulting silence was equally as sudden and even more surprising. He watched Isaiah, who despite all the turmoil and chaos around him appeared serenely calm and content – Isaiah looked older, more mature than his ten years of age somehow; he couldn’t put his finger on how but he was seeing his son differently from across that snow covered road.

“My brother would know what to do.” Stu seemed to be coming out of his own thoughts.

“He’s one of the folks the preacher killed.”

Stu snorted and looked away. “Forgot you were a cop for a second. Yeah, him and two others. Killed them all with a hammer, bashed their heads in.”

“Your brother deserve it?”

“Excuse me?!” Malice was etched into Stu’s face.

“Only two reasons for a man to bash another man’s skull in. He wants to be sure the job’s done and he wants them to know it’s him.” He refused to wither under Stu’s hateful stare, he’d endured worse.

“We talking about people that deserve it then we’d better add you to the mix.”

“O.K. Stu, you know everything about me, you know how everything went down, so walk away. Baby killer, that’s what you called me, so walk away. Pass judgment. I’ll wait right here for that thing to do to me what it did to Mitchel. Will that satisfy you?” His voice had been calm and his tone reasonable, but he could see his words had gotten round the big man’s staunch defenses. The two continued their stare down in the middle of the street.

“It’s all clear Stu!” One of the men had stepped out of the first Haus and was waiving his arm to indicate all-clear. Next there was a howl somewhere close by, loud enough to drown out the stillborn scream from the man who was now being picked up and tossed into the front of the haus. The howl hid the snap of the man’s neck as it struck the façade. Shadows had hidden whatever had grabbed the man, so imaginations filled in the space with frightening alternatives.

Its going to be a long night for everyone and not everyone is going to live to see the dawn. Plus, things seem ready to come to a head with Steve and Stu, maybe it will next time. Thanks for reading and please comment, shares, like, retweet, hashtag, and favorite.