Rushka Chapter 1: Country In Crisis (On Hiatus)

Ravagestar May 17th, 2015 (edited) 2,824 Never
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  1. You struggle to carry the towering pile of documents in your arms. You stumble through the doors of the atrium past two well-armed oni in uniform. Once again they don't say a word to you. Which is disconcerting, considering they would always harass you. Maybe they got married or something? You push the thought out of your mind and get in the elevator along with a lamia and another human male. You vaguely know him but his name escapes you. Whatever. You're the last to leave the elevator since you head all the way to the top floor. Damn thing stalled twice on the way up. What are those mechanics doing? You briefly consider if She would send those grease kakuen to a forced labor camp considering that fucking elevator should have been fixed last thursday. You exchange greetings with the Inari secretary tending to her nails. Or in this case humbly offered, only to be met with silence. Just like always. As you open the door to Her office you are met with shouting.
  3. The sound of a gunshot echoes throughout the corridor. A bit of blood gets on your glasses and uniform. You sigh and pull out a piece of cloth. and wipe the blood off your glasses. You just had this damn uniform dry cleaned.
  5. On the ground is the corpse of the Manticore General Crusoe. Her failure in Ferrmari cost countless lives, resources and control of the southeastern coast of the country.
  7. Of course the Fuhrer didn't like that....
  9. In the center of the remaining generals stands the Fuhrer, motionless, her scarred face spattered with blood. In her left paw is the late general's firearm.
  11. Her cold, razor-like gaze, shifts from the corpse to you. You can detect a slight flinch in her retina.
  13. >"I want General Crusoe's body crucified and placed in the square. If another person fucks up on this scale again, Their death will not be as quick. Understood?"
  15. >"Yes my Fuhrer" the other generals say in unison.
  17. >"Dismissed."
  19. The group shuffles out, the corpse is dragged out with them. You stand there while they leave. The doors close behind you and the two of you are left alone in silence. You don't make a sound.
  21. The Fuhrer looks you dead in the eyes.
  22. >"Yes Lieutenant?"
  24. >"These are damage reports from the Norran Peninsula, Ma'am. I was asked to bring them to you."
  26. >"You can set them on the desk."
  28. You carry the stack to her large mahogany desk. She takes out a cloth and begins cleaning the pistol. She then holsters it.
  30. >"Are you busy lieutenant?"
  32. >"Not especially, I just got back from the northern front." you say.
  34. >"I see. Would you humor me with conversation?"
  36. >"As you wish Ma'am." you say.
  38. She walks towards the window, she strides with dignity, her arms folded behind her back. She seems aloof, indifferent to your very existence. She looks down at the city. She bites her lip. After what seems like an eternity. She speaks up again.
  40. >"Do you know how many people died in Ferrmari?"
  42. You attempt to summon the figure into your head.
  44. >"I believe an upwards of 300 thousand soldiers and civilians."
  46. >"Correct, but do you know why this loss was significant?"
  48. For countless reasons. The country is now almost entirely landlocked save for the eastern coast, which is now under siege as you both speak, for the millions lost in weaponry, vehicles, and manpower. For the thousands of dead men and women lost while General Crusoe retreated. You already know what she means though...
  50. >"There were twice as many civilian casualties than military casualties."
  52. >"Correct."
  54. >"So that's why you killed General Crusoe?"
  56. >"Incorrect. I did it to remind my soldiers who they're supposed to fear.
  58. >"Rushka."
  60. >"DO NOT call me that name."
  62. >"Yes ma'am."
  64. >"Tell me, Lieutenant, how am I supposed to fight this war if my soldiers flee when confronted with an imposing foe.
  66. >"You can not."
  68. >"Exactly my point." If my soldiers will not fight I can not hope to protect my people."
  70. She turns to look at you.
  72. >"So do you see why General Crusoe's failure is unforgivable? It wasn't the just the casualties, it was the fact she showed weakness in the face of the enemy."
  74. >"I see." you say.
  76. >"Have you eaten yet lieutenant?"
  78. >"No ma'am."
  80. >"Then I shall send for two meals and a bottle of wine."
  82. Rushka doesn't wipe the blood off of her face until long after the meal has concluded. She prefers not to. Ever since the old days on the front, Ever since the two of you were just a pair of youths with guns forced into your hands. Ever since she saw her father's disembodied hand after your house had been shelled. She wore the blood of every person she killed for some time. She's never told you the reason, hell she's never said anything about it. She just nonchalantly has blood sitting on her face. You sit across from her, vaguely remembering her more youthful smile. She's only 30 and her fur has already gone white. You remember that first day when her father decided to take you in. It was nice having an older sister. You remember her fur being a creamy black back then. Her red eyes, pointed off towards the clouds. Her sweet voice singing old folk songs into the summer breeze.
  84. You push those thoughts back to where they belong. You need to remain focused.
  86. Rushka is back to staring out the window.
  87. >"I wonder if when all is said and done, I will be executed."
  89. What the fuck?
  91. >"Why do you say that?" you say.
  93. >"Warcrimes."
  95. She did just kill one of her generals.
  97. >"If we win this war, it'll only be a matter of time before everything I've done is brought to light. Without the immediate threat of annihilation from all of our neighbors. It's only a matter of time before the people revolt. They'll have my head."
  99. >"History is often written by the victors." you say.
  101. >"That may be so, but the victors do not live forever."
  103. >"For the love of God, Rushka."
  105. >"Silence."
  107. You cease speaking immediately. Her whispers carry the force of lightning. You can't help but feel wanting for her old self.
  109. >"War makes monsters of us all. You've been with me enough, and by now you know I'm a very twisted woman."
  111. >"You're not twisted Rushka."
  113. She sighs.
  115. Rushka turns around and stares at you, her solitary crimson eye is like a lance preparing to skewer you.
  117. And then she smiles, but it isn't genuine. It feels hollow, jaded, predatory.
  119. >"It seems you're very disobedient today. That's the third time you've referred to me by my name."
  121. She knows how to fuck with you...
  123. >"May I remind you that the punishment for dissent is death by crucifixion."
  125. >"I'm well aware of the consequences Rushka." you say, your gaze shifting to meet hers.
  127. She begins to pace around you, she escapes your gaze.
  129. >"Defiant until the end."
  131. She stops at your side Her smile disappears.
  133. >"You're still a spoiled child, Anon. I understand that's partially my fault. Even now I'm spoiling you. Where many others would have been whipped, I have made an exception for you. Where others had to claw their way to the top you stand here at my side. Where I am indifferent, and cold, you wander in like a parasite. Feeding off of me. Worry not, I do not hate you. I will not lay a finger on you or allow a hair on your head to be misplaced, however I am all too willing to call into question your capabilities as my right-hand. If you can not separate our past from our present, I will be forced to leave you behind. Am I clear?"
  135. She doesn't hesitate to drop that final word.
  137. >"Lieutenant?"
  139. You want to scream. You want to shout. You want to tell her you love her, you want to tell her that you would die for her. You want to hold her in your arms and never let go. You nearly bite your tongue in frustration.
  141. But it's a test. You say nothing but:
  142. >"Yes Ma'am."
  144. >"Good."
  146. >"You are dismissed for the evening. Get some sleep, First thing in the morning, 0700, I want you here in my office. I'll be giving my statement regarding Ferrmari at 0830. Understood?
  148. >"Understood Ma'am."
  150. >"Goodnight."
  152. Your private quarters is on the same floor as Rushka's, a result of her string pulling. As you walk through the doors and out of her quarters your lip begins to bleed. You enter your room and head towards the bedroom.You take off your uniform and hang it in it's proper place. On your bedside table is the only photo you have of Rushka before she lost her left eye. You start to drift off to sleep staring at it. You dream of the wildflowers that haunted the town you were raised in.
  154. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  156. The dull bell of the alarm clock tolls like the reapers call. 0600, time to prepare. You shower and shave before getting into your dress uniform. The fabric is suffocating. You leave your room at 0645. Might as well leave early since you have nothing worth doing. As you enter Rushka’s office you find her staring out the window.
  158. Again.
  160. She’s smoking her pipe. There’s no tobacco in it, tobacco hasn’t been seen in the country for 3 years. It’s supposedly a mixture of herbs that Rushka grows herself in some garden you’ve never seen. According to her, it heightens the senses and gives her clarity.
  162. You realize she’s probably been up all night.
  164. >“My Fuhrer.” you say.
  166. She doesn’t turn to look at you.
  168. >”Yes Lieutenant?”
  170. >”Reporting for duty as requested, Ma’am” you say.
  172. >”Good. The camera crew will be here soon to set up. I want you to assist them.”
  174. >”Will the other members of the top brass be joining us or is it just me this time.”
  176. She takes a long drag from her pipe. She holds it in for some time and finally exhales, a cloud of smoke erupts from her pursed lips.
  178. >”Of course not, they don’t have time to attend something so trivial. They should be planning the counterattack to Ferrmari.”
  180. You can’t think of much else to say so you stay silent and take a seat in the easy chair. The crew arrives on time. As expected.
  182. You assist with the setting up of the equipment and make light conversation with the nameless laborers. By the time 0800 swings around everything is ready. You take your place by Rushka, who is still off staring out of the fucking window.
  184. The bags under her eyes are very pronounced. She was probably reading all those reports.
  186. >”Fuhrer, everything is ready.”
  188. >”Good.”
  190. At last she turns her attention to you. Her ears stand at attention. She snaps her neck to the side and you hear an audible crack. Then snaps to the other side. She cracks her knuckles afterward. You are visibly detested.
  192. >”You know Lieutenant, I had a lot of time last night to think about what we discussed.”
  194. >”Did you now?”
  196. >”Yes, and I’ve realized that perhaps this distance between the two of us needs to be repaired.”
  198. >”Excuse me?”
  200. You’re confused, this isn’t like her. Correction… This isn’t like the current her. She would never plainly go back on something like that. You don’t acknowledge it. She appears to be genuinely glad to see you. Her ears are standing at attention. Her tail is...wagging? Her lips curl into a smile. It appears genuine too.
  202. Just what the hell is going on here?
  204. >”I want to apologize, for what I said.”
  206. She’s looking you in the eye now, a look of concern plastered on her face.
  208. >”I’m deeply sorry for pushing you away like that.”
  210. You’re apprehensive at first, your battle-hardened instincts are screaming. You decide to go along with her. At least for the moment.
  212. >”I accept your apology, Rushka.”
  214. She suddenly grips the sides of your head and pulls you into a kiss. You feel a surge of memory playing in the background. It attempts to push forward but you suppress it.
  216. You decide to push back at Rushka. You force your tongue past her lips. You lightly feel the tips of her claws digging into your cheeks. It’s light at first, but grows in intensity. She starts to bite your tongue too. You pull away from the kiss. She looks half ready to slit your throat if she wasn’t so committed to the guise she’s put on.
  218. She pulls you into a hug. Whispering into your ear.
  220. >”Pull something like that again and I’ll bite it off.”
  222. >”What can I say, I’ve always had a knack for improv.”
  224. >”Silence.”
  226. You comply, the time for banter has passed.
  228. >”There is a pistol hidden in my belt loop.”
  230. >”The one you used to kill Crusoe?”
  232. >”Yes.”
  234. It has one less bullet than usual.
  236. >”How many?”
  238. >”The entire crew has been replaced, there are two outside, and the secretary is already dead.”
  240. >”Any snipers?”
  242. >”No.”
  244. >”That’s strange.”
  246. >”Indeed. I’m guessing this is an attempt to discourage further resistance. Be wary, they may have explosives strapped to their bodies.”
  248. Suicide troopers, the only country with that level of nationalism is Grania. Then again they could be independent. But that’s highly unlikely. First Ferrmari and now this. Things just keep getting better.
  250. You slip your left hand down past her belt line and grab hold of the pistol. She grunts slightly, you might’ve accidentally nudged her crotch with the barrel when you grabbed the gun.
  252. >”By the way, I want them to initiate. Preferably while we’re broadcasting. Leave one alive.”
  254. >”Understood.”
  256. The two of you separate. You managed to conceal the pistol behind your back as you move to parade rest position.
  258. A few minutes pass.
  260. >”Ready in… Three. Two. One.”
  262. >”My fellow Karrans. This is your Fuhrer Rushka Ferris speaking.”
  264. It begins.
  266. Seated in her desk, cool and confident, Rushka gives off an aura of benevolence. She’s like a God ready to pass judgement. Her expression is not one of zealotry or indifference. She merely stares at the camera, her predatory gaze pouring into the camera’s lense.
  268. >”As many of you have no doubt heard, on Wednesday, May 13th, our great nation suffered a terrible loss. The port city of Ferrmari was captured by Novan forces. As it stands, we are completely landlocked. As of right now, our eastern coast is being enveloped in a pincer movement coordinated by both Nova and Sarkal. As a result I will be instituting stricter rationing on various goods. Beginning with chocolate. From this day forward, the chocolate ration is to be cut in half. I apologize profusely.”
  270. Rushka began to read off a list of resources expected to run out within a month.
  272. >”And lastly, pesticide and other consumer products containing chlorine. All production is explicitly forbidden until further notice.”
  274. She sets the list aside, and folds her paws together on the desk.
  276. >”Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience that arises from these rations but all resources must be conserved to aid the war effort if we are to recover Ferrmari and expel the invaders from our lands. In this dark time I must urge you all to not let your fear consume your reason. Remember, surrender is not an option. 50 years ago our neighbor, Hyarn surrendered to pressure from the outside. As of now our former neighbor has been wiped from existence. Many Hyarnen refugees fled to our lands to escape the purges carried out by Grania. If we surrender, not only do we forfeit our lives, but their lives as well. I encourage you all to stand with pride, we are the final pillar of resistance against the tyranny of the outside. Now is-”
  278. The two humans in the crew produce submachine guns from the black boxes used to transport the broadcasting equipment. You dive beneath the desk while Rushka sinks down.
  280. The thundering din of gunfire erupts and soon the others join in. Beneath the desk is a small trap door. Rushka pulls on the latch and it easily opens up, revealing two assault rifles, 6 fully loaded magazines, 6 grenades (2 frag,  2 flash, and 2 dusters), and a pack of cigarettes.
  282. >”You were saving them specifically for something like this, weren’t you?”
  284. >”Old habits die hard.”
  286. >”Amen.”
  288. She grabs one of the rifles and hands it to you. You grab a magazine and load it. You pack an extra magazine into your back pocket. Rushka quickly loads her own and grabs the pack of cigarettes she offers you one and you take it. She places one in her mouth and lights it. You press your cig to hers and light it that way. You both take long drafts and exhale clouds of smoke. It’s your first one in three years, it feels wonderful.
  290. >”So what’s the plan?” you ask.
  292. >”We kill them. Is that good enough for you?”
  294. >”At least you have a plan.” you say.
  296. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  298. Rushka grabs one of the flash grenades. She pulls the pin and lobs it over the desk. 3 seconds later the gunfire has stopped. The two of you open fire. The assassins include two humans, a ghoul, a blue oni, and a dark elf. You aim for a ghoul burying several rounds into her chest. She’s not dead yet but she collapses. She’s likely disabled for the most part. Rushka sends a volley of lead into one of the humans, he’s dead before he touches the ground. The blue oni, her sight returns to her just in time to see him go down. She roars in rage.
  300. >”Damn you!” The blue oni screams.
  302. The two of you vault over the desk before they have time to open fire. Rushka rushes the oni, using the rifle like a bat she smacks the shotgun in the oni’s hands to the side before it can go off. She delivers a series of jabs into the oni’s solar plexus and grabs hold of her by the arm. She proceeds to smash her foot into the oni’s knee. She falls onto one knee. Rushka grabs her by the head, and then snaps her neck. The blue oni falls, a trickle of blood escaping her lips.
  304. You ram the butt of your rifle into the other human. The dark elf lodges two rounds into you, one in your left shoulder the other in your left side. You’re knocked on your back. Rushka charges the dark elf, punching her in the jaw with a right hook. She then swipes at her chest with her claws, the dark elf is thrown to the ground with a snarling wolf bearing down on top of her. Rushka begins delivering blow after blow to the dark elf’s face. Never relenting even as the elf’s visage becomes bloody and bruised. You pick yourself off the ground and grab your rifle, you’re woozy, but you can make out Rushka’s form in your delirium. Her eyes are clouded over with rage. The elf’s resistance has slowly faded and she lays still the only evidence of life being the rise and fall of her chest, even that fades. As two amazonians burst in, they are equal parts horrified and enraged. You open fire and they fall like flies. You collapse to your knees. Shit, you’re losing blood fast.
  306. Rushka rushes to your side.
  308. >“Are you alright?”
  310. >”Of course not you stupid bitch, I’ve been shot.”
  312. >”At least you’re alive, Lieutenant.”
  314. >”Just get the fucking medkit.”
  316. >”Fine.”
  318. She walks off to the far wall and pulls the emergency medical supplies off its mount. She kicks the human you smacked with the rifle in the face. Nighty night. She peels off your jacket and your shirt and lays you flat. She takes a syringe full of small sponges and injects the payload into your shoulder wound.
  320. >”You’re very lucky lieutenant.” she says taking the second syringe full of sponge.
  322. You’re too woozy to respond.
  324. >”The second bullet hit 5 inches below your heart. It’s nothing short of a miracle you’re alive.”
  326. She injects the second payload.
  328. >”I’m glad.”
  330. You’re eyes close and you can feel a wet sensation on your lips.
  332. Blood?
  334. You awake in a military hospital (in a private room) a whole two days later thanks to the miracles of medical science. The bullets were removed and you’re expected to make a full recovery. According to the surgeon that operated on you, the bullets did no permanent damage. So as Rushka put it just moments before you passed out: You are indeed lucky. You can’t say the same for the two captives. The ghoul you put down was still alive since undead tend to be quite sturdy. As well as the human captive. No country has taken credit for the attack, but there is always the possibility that this was a third party.
  336. Perhaps even rebels.
  338. Although you try to keep it suppressed, you can’t help but endure the image of those two captives being interrogated seeping into your thoughts. You can still remember the screams of the Granian Anubis as Rushka worked. That was 4 years ago.
  340. You were required to stay in the hospital for a several weeks while you recovered. The fuhrer graciously giving you paid leave for the duration of your stay was “rather kind of her” as the nurse who first found you awake pointed out.
  342. During the duration of your stay you have a variety of visitors. The young werecat that runs a flower shop you occasionally visit to inquire on her wellbeing. You watched her father die before your eyes. You shot him after he inhaled poison gas, you told her however that he died in some other less unpleasant manner. That he died a “Hero.”
  344. “Hero” a word that still stings whenever it jumps off your tongue.
  346. She was wearing a blue dress, her long blonde hair hanging down and laying flat against her shoulders. Her soft ears standing ready to greet you. Her tail sways lightly from side to side.
  348. As she pushes open the door she wears one of the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. Her blue eyes are wide and innocent. She’s holding a bouquet of flowers and a bag with the words “Get well soon!” written in big, black letters.
  350. >”Hello Anon!”
  352. You’re surprised to see her.
  354. >”Lucy? What are you doing here? Who let you in?”
  356. >”Oh! I have a signed letter from the Fuhrer herself!”
  358. She opens up the bag and shows you an envelope with Rushka’s personal seal.
  360. >”How the hell did you get the fuhrer to do this for you?”
  362. >”I called the number on your card and it was forwarded to the Fuhrer’s office. I introduced myself as a friend and asked if you were alright. Next thing I know she tells me where you are and says she’ll give me a signed rite of entry into your hospital room. So here I am.”
  364. >”I...see.” is all you can muster to say.
  366. She approaches the left side of your bed and sits in one of the chairs provided by the hospital. She sets the flowers on a nearby table and you adjust your bed to prop you up. She hands you the bag and you begin sifting through colored tissue paper until you find a small box about the size of a brick.
  368. >”Sorry about the big bag and tiny box, it was the only size they had.”
  370. >”It’s alright.” you say
  372. You slip off the top to find a silver pocket watch.
  374. >”A pocket watch?”
  376. >”Yeah, I had a lot of money saved so I wanted to buy you a present. It’s a thank you for all your service to our country. You’re being honored as a hero after all.
  378. A hero? Your thoughts shift to Rushka. What the hell did she do?
  380. >”How am I a hero?”
  382. She looks perplexed.
  384. >”Nobody has told you yet? You assisted the Fuhrer in fighting off the assassins. The fuhrer is still alive because you were there to protect her. You took two bullets for her.”
  386. >”I see.” you say.
  388. She used you as a martyr. Dammit.
  390. >”How much did this cost?”
  392. With resources strained as they are right now, the pocket watch must’ve cost a small fortune.
  394. >”Oh, 250 Gil.”
  396. >”That’s a lot of money for a simple get well soon present.”
  398. >”Not really. I told you, I had a lot saved up.”
  400. >”It’s still a lot.” You say.
  402. >”But you’re one of my dearest friends.”
  404. Her eyes fall to her lap and her ears fold. Her fists are clenched tightly.
  406. >”When the assassins opened fire I was so worried. I was scared I would lose my dearest friend. When at last the bullets stopped and the Fuhrer finally announced that the assassins had been dealt with and that you were injured I was so worried. I’m so glad that you’re okay though.”
  408. >”I’m flattered you feel that way Lucy, but I can’t accept this.”
  410. She looks desperate now, her eyes wide with anxiety.
  412. >”Please, I want you to have it. You’re always visiting me in the shop to see how I’m doing, and I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me after papa died. You’ve always been there to support me when I needed your help. I can never begin to repay all you’ve done for me, so I want to do everything in my power to thank you.”
  414. She looks you in the eyes, her blue eyes shimmer like the sky over Taizan. The smell of wildflowers in bloom drifts into your nostrils. It’s faint and when you notice its presence it disappears.
  416. Something inside you breaks.
  418. >”I understand, Lucy. I accept your gift.”
  420. She lights up instantly and pounces on you. She wraps her arms around your chest. You wince from having your wounds aggravated.
  422. >”Thank you so much anon! You don’t know how much it means to me!”
  424. You try your hardest to force a smile onto your face for her sake, you can’t bring yourself to deny her anymore.
  426. After all, you’re the one that shot her father.
  428. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  430. You talk with Lucy for some time. She only leaves once visiting hours are up. You try to sleep but what she said is still troubling you. Why is Rushka intentionally making you an icon? It’s all too reminiscent of the war martyrs from the old government’s propaganda. The more you think about it, it becomes clear that her motive is just the same. She’s trying to whip the country into a frenzy over this.
  432. You realize that Rushka is desperate. The moment Karran loses its coastline, you’re all done for. This country is on its last legs. Rushka is doing everything and anything to keep the country stable.
  434. Wait a second…
  436. She wouldn’t…
  438. Her ethics couldn’t be so twisted as to actually pull something so cruel…
  440. The more you think about it the more likely it seems.
  442. “I’m a very twisted woman.” The image goes through your mind like a drill tunneling it’s way, screaming, grinding against bone and you come to the horrible realization.
  444. Rushka paid assassins to attack her, that explained how they were able to push past all the security like it was nothing. It was too convenient, they just somehow managed to get in without so much as a background check or anything? All citizens have to be registered with all five civil offices. There are physical and digital registration forms for everyone. Everything is cross-examined on a regular basis. So how did an entire team of assassins manage to get inside the most heavily guarded military fortress in the whole of the Karran Federation?
  446. An attempt on her life on live television? Too fucking easy. Ever since she joined the Karran Nationalist party she became an icon of the Karran spirit. She was the one of the generals that lead the military coup. She’s like a god now, revered and feared. A group of assassins slaughtered after raising their hands against her? In the eyes of the populace she’s untouchable. Something to be feared.
  448. You getting shot and becoming a martyr was just gravy.
  450. “I’m a very twisted woman.”
  452. The look in her eye as she said those words. As if some distant thought had reared its head in that one instant.
  454. She planned her own assassination attempt and now she’s dragged you into the spotlight with her.
  456. But what the hell are you even supposed to do about it?
  458. You lay back in your bed, exhausted. Your body feels heavy, you can’t focus your attention on anything anymore. You just give up and sleep.
  460. Then the answer comes, in your semi-conscious mind the answer appears like a puff of smoke from a cigarette. Translucent and fragile, dark enough to see but impossible to fully grasp. You skirt through it, just barely swiping at the lucid strands of thought.
  462. It lays in a field of wildflowers, a distant, dust covered smile. Then it fades. You’re dreaming now.
  465. ………
  467. Oh right…
  469. There is nothing you can do…
  471. If memory serves, that’s the way it’s always been.
  473. You’re powerless. Useless. Dead weight.
  475. Isn’t that why you were an orphan?
  477. ……
  478. ………
  480. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  482. Rushka never once visits you in the hospital. The only visitor you get on a regular basis that isn’t media or military business is Lucy. When you’re not reading, you’re staring down at the hands of the silver pocket watch. You watch them toil endlessly, the dark hands ticking the seconds away.
  484. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.
  486. She comes in almost every other day. Her sky blue eyes are full of light. Today she has a short black skirt on with a blouse and a red bow tie. She’s also wearing long white knee-length socks and in her hair rests a flower from her shop.
  488. >“Good morning Anon.” She says slipping through the door.
  490. >“I passed by Ruby’s bakery today and she gave me some bread and cheese to give you.”
  492. You smile as she sits down and set the bed to allow you to sit up.
  494. >”Tell her I said thank you,” you say.
  496. >”I shall. Would you like some?”
  498. You nod, and she takes a knife from her bag and a plate she cuts a few chunks of cheese and large piece of bread from the loaf. The two of you enjoy a small meal together undisturbed. You make small talk. She goes on and on about the flower shop. She talks about the various soldiers that stop by regularly. One in particular, a young man no older than 20. Blonde hair, brown eyes, and tanned skin. He stops by every wednesday. He’s apparently a very charming lad.
  500. >”He really likes me.” She says, “This one time he came in, bought a bouquet of roses and a card, and said they were for a charming young lady.”
  502. >”So what did he do then?” You ask.
  504. >”He left, walked around the block, came back inside, got down on one knee, and while holding the roses out towards me,” she recreates the gesture for you, looking you in the eyes with a sort of princely aura, “and he says, ’Dearest Lucy, your eyes are like the bright, blue sky, your hair like a shimmering waterfall of golden light, your voice like honey, and your figure, a slender sculpture crafted by the angels. I have bought you these Roses and offer them to you with my deepest and most sincere affections. I pray you accept them.’
  506. She giggles.
  508. >”Can you believe it, Anon?” she says, “I have an admirer! He’s so sweet, and poetic. What do you think?”
  510. You laugh lightly.
  512. >”I like him, sounds like a really nice guy. He’s head over heels for you.”
  514. >”I know, it’s so adorable. It reminds me of when my older brother used to play house with me when I was little. He was always so nice, and sweet. He always looked after me while Dad was off on the battlefield…”
  516. She slips off for a moment. You yourself are reminded of Captain Riggs writhing on the ground clutching his throat, choking to death since his own windpipe was inflamed and he could not breath. You can only imagine the burning he felt, his lungs were swimming in hydrochloric acid after he inhaled the gas.
  518. You remember the agony of watching him suffer, unable to draw breath. He snaps the chain around his neck and hands you a locket with Lucy and her mother on the right and a young man on the left.
  520. You stare down at him, struggling, and you think to yourself “I will end his misery.”
  522. You draw your handgun sliding the rail back and pointing it at his forehead.
  524. *Bang* The first round enters his skull like a drill. Blood spatters onto your glasses. Your rational mind runs and hides in the corner.
  526. *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
  528. Round after round pounds into his skull, quickly reducing the once familiar face of Captain Riggs to a grounded pile of mush.
  530. *Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
  532. You can’t stop, your fingers won’t let go, the trigger pulls you along for the ride. You can't stop. Your hand won’t let you. You keep pulling the trigger and his face is torn to ribbons.
  534. *Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
  536. *Click* *Click* *Click* *Click* *Click* *Click*
  538. You keep pulling the trigger, your mental capacity resting entirely in the process of “Gun” and “Shoot.” Rushka slaps you out of it. Her hair is still black, and you’re still just 15. Your senses return, and you see the remains of the late captain’s face. You collapse and vomit.
  540. Then the nightmare ends as Lucy is calling out your name and has been for some time. You are no longer 15. This is not southwest Crail. You are in a hospital clutching Lucy’s shoulders. She looks visibly shaken.
  542. >“Are you alright, Anon?”
  544. >“Y-yes…”
  546. >“Were you.. remembering stuff from back then?”
  548. Looking into her eyes, fearful and concerned, you feel an overwhelming wave of guilt crush you.
  550. >”I think you’d better go.”
  552. >”Will you b-”
  554. >”Please, Lucy.”
  556. You avoid her gaze.
  558. >”I need to be alone, right now.”
  560. Her ears droop and her eyes stare at the floor.
  562. >“Alright.”
  564. She packs up her things and leaves. As the door closes behind her you feel colder. The scents of Taizan’s wildflowers hang around you like a bottle of cheap cologne.
  566. ……
  567. ………
  569. You feel sick. If you’re not careful you’ll start drifting off into your memories. Lucy’s innocent composure is enough to send you spiraling into the back of your mind. To happier times. To darker times. To the battlefield. To a grassy field under the light of the full moon.
  571. Maybe you died in Rushka’s office and Lucy is the devil that has come to punish you for the monster you became all those years ago.
  573. Who are you kidding, you’re still sane. You can still pretend everything is alright. It’s Rushka who’s crazy. Perhaps she could’ve been spared all this. If only she’d been in the house with her father instead of with you that night.
  575. You’d rather not start thinking about that night right now. But it happens anyway, you pass over in silence, once again, the realization that Captain Riggs death was where everything really fell apart for you. Nothing new there though.
  577. God damn it, you really need a cigarette. Maybe Rushka would be willing to spare another one.
  579. ……
  580. ………
  582. Lucy’s visits keep you semi-sane, her presence invokes both happiness and guilt. Whenever she’s around you go half-lucid, you remember her father and the entire length of your service in the firelands. Karran’s Northwest-most region. She reminds you of a time you’d been trying to forget.
  584. There was one visit from Lucy in particular where the guilt was absolutely unbearable. From the moment of her entrance it became obvious of her mental state. She wore a white sundress, her face was semi-red. The unmistakable scent of arousal was present. She fidgeted in her chair, squirming under your gaze. Her legs were crossed and her paws were folded in her lap. Her breathing was heavier than normal. She always seemed short of breath. Then it hits you, the full moon.
  586. You’d already slowly pieced together that she had a thing for you. The way she’d fawned over you ever since you were hospitalized. Using what little money she’d managed to acquire to buy you a gift. It was really obvious, and you doubt she was even hiding it.
  588. >”Anon.” She says, her small frame wiggling. Her tail spasmodically flicking from side to side.
  590. >”Yeah Lucy?” you say, trying to ignore her obvious arousal.
  592. >”Can you tell me what Papa was like, the way you knew him.”
  594. >”You mean how he acted towards his troops?”
  596. >”Yeah, I never really knew much about Papa’s work.”
  598. >”That’s not really much of a surprise, You were only 10 when he died.”
  600. >”Exactly, so what was he like.”
  602. He was a bit of an asshole, but he was a tough son of a bitch and looked after his men. He just got on people’s bad sides pretty quickly. It was his personality really, he just clashed with people. He always tried to protect you too.
  604. >”Why the fuck were you drafted? You’re 14!”
  606. From his view, there was absolutely no reason for children to be fighting in the war. It didn’t matter if you had experience or if the country was short on soldiers. No child should be forced to kill. Yet it was necessary, and from your point of view, every time you killed, it was vengeance served for your countrymen, for the man that took you in as a child, for Rushka.
  608. He was like a father to you. Which made killing him all the more agonizing.
  610. You told Lucy about how he’d dragged you two miles with your arm over his shoulder, after the rest of the unit save for Rushka and one other had been slaughtered in an ambush. How he’d sacrificed himself to let you and Rushka get away. It was the same story you’d told her when you came back to the capital for the first time. How he’d said that you were all too young to die here. How he’d manned a howitzer and held off an entire battalion. It was a load of bullshit and no records of such an event exist, but who’s checking?
  612. When you introduced yourself as a friend of her father’s three months after she’d already lost her big brother in a bombing, you basically became her whole world. The thought of taking her as your lover drove you into your own personal little hell. You wouldn't dare defile someone so pure.
  614. You walk on eggshells as the two of you talk.
  616. Her eyes slowly grow clouded with lust, her gaze is no longer that of a sibling or a friend. They seem predatory. She's becoming consumed with hunger.
  618. You're tempted to reach out and claim her. To forget Rushka and start over, but you can't.
  620. She's panting as she speaks.
  622. >”You know that young man from a few days ago? ... He asked me out yesterday.”
  624. >”So what did you tell him?” you ask, you already know her answer though.
  626. She looks worried as she responds.
  628. >”I said no of course.” she says dumbfounded.
  630. >”I see.”
  632. >”I barely knew the guy. He’s not my type either. I don’t do poetic.”
  634. >”That’s too bad, I think he would’ve made a good boyfriend.”
  636. >”No he wouldn’t, guys like that are just trying to get into your pants. You’d be a much better boyfriend if you ask me.”
  638. At last she drops the hint. Your assumptions were correct. You tip toe around her offer.
  640. >”No I wouldn’t.”
  642. She looks at you awestruck, and then offering you a smile, her gaze consumed with maddening lust.
  644. >”What are you saying?” You’d be a great boyfriend. You’re always looking out for others, you’re a soldier and-”
  646. >”No, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not the kind of guy you think I am. I looked after you out of obligation to your father. I couldn’t bring myself to leave you all alone.”
  648. >”I know that, but you’ve always been so kind… You’re like the perfect boyfriend, a knight in shining armor looking after the families of his fallen comrades.
  650. >”What the fuck are you saying? I'm just a glorified killer."
  652. >”Don’t say that Anon.”
  654. You can see trickles down her thighs
  656. >”Just because you’ve killed people doesn’t make you a monster.”
  658. >"You don't get it Lucy. I've done horrible things in the name of revenge. I was so consumed with my hatred that I blindly accepted anything the government fed me. I've watched this nation become a soulless, witch-hunting, propaganda-spewing, war machine, and I never once cared. There was one time after my promotion to captain, about 8 years ago. I was only 16 and the bastards at HQ saw it fit to give a teenager an officer's rank and authority. Fucking psychopaths. Now, it was just outside of Sver, and after chasing down a Sarkian guerilla squad we had just killed the last one. Or so we thought. We came across a farmer and his family."
  660. It doesn't exactly look like she's taking an interest in your story. She keeps trying to stop herself from masturbating.
  662. You let a despairing smile stretch across your face.
  664. >"We were to return to Sver after completing our short deployment. We were a search and destroy outfit. We were going to ask to rest in the barn, the Man of the house was acting suspiciously. He blatantly refused to offer us shelter. I was hot-headed, the twisted slogans of our 'righteous cause' streaming through my mind at 100 miles per hour. I couldn't believe that some dirt farming peasant could turn down the authority of the military. I demanded a thorough investigation of the house and property. Guess what we found? A Sarkal deserter. As punishment for giving sanctuary to the enemy. I let my men loose on the family. His elven wife was very beautiful, she was raped, as were the two daughters. I personally shot all three in the head. Then my men shot the man to death. The Sarkal deserter was dragged back to Sver, tortured until he confessed to killing the family, and then publicly executed."
  666. >"That's why I'm a monster."
  668. >”I-I… I don’t care.”
  670. She stands up, crawls onto your bed, and straddles you. She takes your hand and guides it to her crotch. She’s drenched. Her blue eyes are pinned to yours
  672. >”Anon, I love you. What happened in the past is done, it can't be changed, but you can walk away from it. Please, let me help you walk away. My father believed in you, in the future, that's why he gave his life for you. He's gone, but you're still here.
  674. She starts leaning in closer, you’re just an inch away from her face. You can feel her hot breath on your skin.
  676. >”Please take me, I want you more than anything. I love you.”
  678. She tries to kiss you, you grab her arms and keep her at bay.
  680. >”Visiting hours are almost up,” you say.
  682. >”Y-y-ye-yeah,” her face red as a beat. Her breaths are shallow pants. She’s shaking.
  684. >”Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
  686. >”N-n-nn-n-n-nn-n-no-o. Ishouldgetgoing.”
  688. Her voice starts to crack and tears start to trickle down her cheeks.
  690. She hops off of you, she turns away.
  692. She rushes out after packing up her things.
  694. You almost instantly regret letting her go.
  696. You’re pathetic.
  698. So fucking pathetic.
  700. She doesn’t visit for the last three days of your stay.
  702. You see her pass by in the street down below with a young man in uniform at her side a day later.
  704. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  706. You return to your room for the first time in awhile, the place feels cold and hollow. You find a fresh dress uniform on your bed. You’ve been given a replacement since the old one was ruined. You hang it up in the closet and lay down on your bed. Rushka is out for a few days, off making visits to several bases to improve moral. You’ve got no standing orders, so you’re a free bird for the time being.
  708. General Christina Hughes is a fairly good looking Salamander with a reputation for still frequenting the battlefield despite her rank.
  710. “A general should lead the charge.” as she said when she and her troops finally expelled the Sarkan and Granian advances from the west.
  712. After the death of Captain Riggs and your promotion, you served under her for 4 years. She was just Colonel Hughes back then. You hadn’t spoken to her personally since you left to work under Rushka. To find her at your door was quite a surprise.
  714. She wears the specialized uniform for those who have attained the rank of Brigadier General or higher. It’s a much darker shade of grey than your standard officer’s uniform, and comes with white stripes around the collar and down the sleeves. Of course the uniform has been hand tailored to suit someone of her species with a hole for her long scaly tail. She is well-developed, her chest is large and her body rather voluptuous. Yet underneath her skin lies strong, well-trained muscles. You’ve seen personally what she can do on the battlefield, her raw, untamed power gives her a fearsome presence. When you knew her in Crail, she usually smelt of blood or smoke.
  716. She wears a wide, mischievous smile as she sets her eyes on you. Like a predator locking onto prey, her focus is entirely on you.
  718. >”Hello, Lieutenant.”
  720. She pushes you back and forces her way into the room. She slams the door shut and locks it behind her. She grabs you by the collar and drags you to your bedroom. She tosses you onto the bed and unbuttons her uniform. She peels off the jacket and straddles you, She’s wearing a pink bra with two large hearts on either side. It’s barely able to contain her large, brazen bust. She holds you down with her large, powerful claws, shifting her weight onto your chest. You find it difficult to breath.
  722. >”God damn it, Christina. I just got out of the fucking hospital.”
  724. >”I know, doesn’t it make sense to celebrate with me, your old flame?
  726. >”I’m not in the mood for this.”
  728. >”Why not, do you prefer Rushka’s soft, furry paws and tiny wolf titties to my scaly meat hooks and beautiful, bouncing breasts?
  730. >”Shut the fuck up Christina.”
  732. She unhooks her bra and her tits are swaying in your face.
  734. >”Look Anony, they’re just like you remember them. I may be 34, but they’re still soft and warm, can’t you feel it?”
  736. She rests her large breasts on your chest and brings her face inches from yours.
  738. Your pants are getting uncomfortably tight.
  740. >”I see you’re already excited to have me again.”
  742. You turn your head to avoid her gaze.
  744. She grabs you by the chin and looks you in the eyes.
  746. >”Don’t be rude Anony, that’s no way to treat your girlfriend after 5 years.”
  748. >”We broke up when I got moved to the capital.”
  750. Her smile fades.
  752. >”We only broke up right after that Gnarled Bitch dragged you away from me. But it’s alright now Anony. She can try to keep you locked up as her pet, but she can’t keep me out.”
  754. >”We shouldn’t be doing this.”
  756. >”Oh come on, Anony, don’t be a little bitch. Just accept it. I’m not like that cat you turned away in the hospital. I don’t take no for an answer.”
  758. Wait.
  760. >”How do you know about that?”
  762. >“My ears tell me everything I need to know. Rushka had your room bugged and I have her office bugged. We play quite a few games up here at the capital while you’re off running errands around the country. Don’t you remember the other two that came out in good positions after the whole coup 5 years ago? You know how they’re dead now?”
  764. Brigadier General Asgor and Countess Francine Cellius, A human and a harpy, both currently deceased.
  766. >”That was her?”
  768. >”Not entirely, the general had the countess’s mansion burned to the ground but the late general was assassinated by Rushka.
  770. >”I see. So if she bugged my hospital room, chances are this room is bugged too.”
  772. >”Give me some credit, I’m a bit more careful than that.”
  774. She gets off of you and walks over to her discarded jacket. She reaches into a pocket, pulls out a card shaped device, and tosses it to you. You catch it, the object is surprisingly heavier than you were anticipating.
  776. >”That’s three kilograms of our R&D department’s best work. A micro-jammer. It’s range is a little lacking only allowing up to 50 meters at the most but that’s not the point. It allows you to hide from radar, motion sensors, etc. It has a battery life of one year and can be detonated at the touch of a button. Not a word of our conversation has left this room, so we can have all the fun we want.”
  778. She unzips her pants and climbs back on top of you. She begins to peel off your clothes, first the shirt and then your pants and soon you’re lying beneath her with your cock hanging out. She teases it gently with soft strokes.
  780. >”I hope you’re ready because I have all the time in the world and I’m not leaving until I’m satisfied.”
  782. You sigh, you’re too tired to try and resist. You’re wounds aren’t even fully healed.
  784. >”Just do whatever you want.”
  786. >”Good boy.”
  788. Christina starts to rub her crotch on your shaft, her panties are drenched with her juices. Your cock begins to leak precum from the tip. You’re actually quite excited.
  790. >”So what’ll it be first, Anony? Shall I relieve you with my breasts that you love so much? Or do you want me to get you off with my mouth? Maybe we can start with a nice old-fashioned handjob?”
  792. >”Do as you see fit.”
  794. >”As you wish, Anony.”
  796. She hops off for a moment and pulls down her undergarments revealing her wet, bronze slit. Her underwear is a soft pink with a heart on both sides. She wraps them around your member and slowly rubs it.
  798. >”I picked out the perfect pair just for you.”
  800. >”Goody.”
  802. She pouts
  804. >”You could at least pretend. I didn’t come all this way for shits and giggles.”
  806. >”I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  808. >”Asshole.”
  810. She lowers her head and begins to lick your shaft. Her powerful hands maintain a quick piston motion. She quickly shifts to sucking the tip and after tossing the stained panties to the side proceeds to swallow your entire length. She repeatedly rams your penis into the back of her throat. A soft, low moan escapes her. The pleasure builds and builds, until like a volcano, you erupt, shooting your hot semen down her throat.
  812. She lurches back. She’s barely able to stop her gag reflex. She looks you in the eye. Her emerald green eyes glow like fire. She slowly opens her mouth to show you your handiwork.
  814. >”Shee, Anyany. I kyan huold id dall.”
  816. You refrain from comment.
  818. She closes her mouth and swallows. She opens her jaws again to reveal that she drank every last drop.
  820. >”I’d like to see that gnarled bitch do that, just imagine that stoic face covered in semen. Her face flush with embarrassment Can you just see it Anon? The high and mighty fuhrer reduced to a cum-guzzling whore?”
  822. >”Now you’re just being absurd Christina.”
  824. >” Perhaps. Now, shall we continue onto the main course?”
  826. >”You don’t exactly need my permission considering this is rape.” you say blatantly
  828. >”I know, I just want you focused.”
  830. She raises her rear end and positions herself over your manhood.
  832. >”At last.” she says, “It’s been so long.”
  834. She impales herself on you, she lets out a stifled yelp. She takes you to the hilt, and a sudden rush of fluid splashes against your thighs. She came. Her talons break skin on your chest. It’s only a light scratch but it hurts like a bitch, the pain is slightly dulled from the sensation of having your cock squeezed with what may as well be a vice grip.
  836. You look at her face. She’s crying.
  838. >”Christina, are you alright?”
  840. She doesn’t respond. She only nods.
  842. >”Are you in any pain? Is something wrong?”
  844. She shakes her head.
  846. She sits upright. Resting on your lap. She opens her mouth to speak, but her voice is caught in her throat. Her eyes are desperate, she’s clawing at the words, searching for the right things to say. When at last she speaks her voice is choking with a sorrow.
  848. >”It’s been 5 years, Anony. 5 long years of war and suffering. Throughout the whole thing I felt hollow. I buried myself in my work, taking out all my frustration on whatever unlucky bastard came my way. There is only so much blood you can bathe in before it starts to make you sick again.”
  850. You lay your hands against her hips.
  852. >”When that bitch dragged you away from me. I wanted to kill her. She just tosses you to the side to go and join those fucking rebels.  Leaving you behind to fight the war, just a stupid kid with no family left. I try to my damndest to look after you. I go out of my way to watch your back, only to end up falling in love with you. I can no longer count the number of times you’ve carved your name into my flesh. The four years I knew you, I can honestly say I was truly happy. I even considered marrying you. Then that god damn gnarled bitch comes back with a fucking army under her command and drags you away from me.”
  854. >”Christina.”
  856. >”But it’s all better now, because I’m here for you again, Anony.”
  858. She begins to piston herself on your manhood.
  860. >”And I’m going to protect you.”
  862. You thrust against her shaking hips. You ram your cock into her begging snatch and she shivers on top of you. She wriggles in ecstasy and her tail burns like the sun. You’re only able to keep up against her onslaught for a brief 4 minutes before you blow your second load.
  864. >”Yes! Yes!” she shouts, “Give it all to me! Anony, fill me with your seed!”
  866. You force her into the submissive position. A trail of drool is leaking from her mouth. You’re back endures various cuts and slashes from her sharp claws and you wince in pain. You try to maintain your pace, but it slowly builds into a mixture of pleasure and pain. Agony and Ecstasy. You jack-hammer her womb and she cums like a fountain. She sinks her teeth into your wounded shoulder and you flinch from the pain. She digs her talons into your back.
  868. >”Donch jew fuggin stahp!” she demands.
  870. You attempt to ignore the severe pain coursing through your back and pound away into her drooling cunt. She locks her legs around your waist, she won’t let you escape. She continues to knead the flesh on your back. You groan with pain.
  872. She bites down hard as she prepares to orgasm for the third time. Her strong jaws nearly cracking the bones in your shoulder. It’s like you’re trapped in a nightmare and a wet dream at the same time. You cum, unable to continue resisting her attack, and spray your pearly semen into her womb. You swear you can feel her claws scraping against bone as she rides the waves of her orgasm. She lays flat, her arms fall limp at her sides. She’s unable to move anymore. She’s overpowered by her orgasm. Her tongue pokes out from her lips. You intertwine your own tongue with hers and pull her into a long, desperate kiss.
  874. You wince in pain as the orgasm fades. Your back is probably seriously damaged. You decide it’s in your best interest to investigate your injuries. You separate from the salamander. She can barely offer any resistance.
  876. >”Whe..” she mutters.
  878. You stare at your back in the mirror. Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up alright. It hurts like a bitch, but you’re used to it. It’s just been awhile.
  880. >”You really did a number on my back Christina.” you say.
  882. >”I’m sorry.” she whispers weakly.
  884. You sigh and walk back to the bed. The sheets are already ruined so you don’t give a fuck. You sit next to her and lay down. She crawls on top of you. You wrap your arm around her. She looks so out of it. Her crimson hair, spills down her back. You run your hand through it. It’s rough and thick. Like a tangled mass of steel wire. It smells like smoke. She was never one to wear perfume, but she also knows you’re the only who prefers her natural scent. The sweet, smoky scent that lingers long after she leaves. The feeling of her breasts, firm and full pressed into your chest, it feels nostalgic. It gives you a feeling of ease. And her warmth, oh god her warmth. Her intense body heat is like a blanket, fresh from the dryer, but soft and moist with sweat.
  886. You crack a smile.
  888. The two of you lay together for awhile, resting.
  890. You stay there in perfect silence until she speaks up.
  892. >”I really am sorry about your back, Anony.” she whispers.
  894. >”It’s alright. They’re just flesh wounds.
  896. >”I can cauterize them if you want.”
  898. >”I said I’m fine.”
  900. >”Alright, jeez. I didn’t realize you were so used to being flayed alive.”
  902. >”Believe it or not I was.”
  904. >”Well that’s good. I guess we’re just going to have to rebuild your pain tolerance then.”
  906. She laughs a little.
  908. >”You’re not really sorry, are you?”
  910. >”I am, it’s just that if the past has taught us anything, it’s that this will be a repeat occurrence.”
  912. >”Well you could always try, well, you know, practicing restraint?”
  914. >”Where’s the fun in that?” she laughs.
  916. She begins to trace on your chest with one of her claws.
  918. >”I wonder if Rushka will be mad if she ever finds out about this.” she says.
  920. >”I don’t think she really cares anymore. All she ever does is keep her distance.”
  922. >”It’s more like she keeps you just within reach, like I said, you’re her pet.”
  924. >”You’re wrong.”
  926. >”Am I Anon? How many times have the two of you fucked? Once? Twice? For what purpose does she keep you around? I realize she has some semblance of affection for you, but all she’s done is hold you at bay and chain you to her service. You’re a fly caught in her web.”
  928. >”We grew up together, we watch each other’s backs.”
  930. Her playful smile fades.
  932. >”Anony.”
  934. >”Yeah, Christina?”
  936. >”You know how it was the full moon a few days ago?”
  938. >”Yeah.”
  940. >”I slept with four different men that day.”
  942. Some part of you feels jealous and angry.
  944. >”From the moment I woke up, I just felt empty. I felt like a hollow shell. Like a corpse that had been left to rot in the sun. I couldn’t stand it, so I raped the first man I could find. He was a young recruit. 16 years old. He passed out after a few times, and he wouldn’t get hard anymore. So I just found another man and fucked him. Then another and then another. Four different men. Not a single one could satisfy me. I remembered you. It wasn’t until I masturbated to your picture that I felt some form of relief, but I still burned inside. I felt guilty, I felt so awful that I just let her take you away. I’d been slaughtering people left and right and fucking any random soldier that struck my fancy. I was a murderous whore. When I finally came to my senses I realized how desperately I needed you. I’d promised to protect you but I just gave up without a fight. So I swore to myself I would rescue you from her.”
  946. You’re not quite sure how to respond
  948. >”Do you know what you call that?”
  950. You remain silent.
  952. >”I call it devotion.”
  954. >”Devotion?”
  956. >”I know it sounds hypocritical, but I was lost without you. From the moment you left Crail, I started drinking a lot more than usual and my swordplay got sloppy. Do you remember what happened when Captain Riggs died? When you and Rushka attended his funeral at the capital and were promoted? What did she say again?
  958. The image of Rushka’s dark eyes staring into your soul became clear as daylight.
  960. “I’m sorry, Anon,”
  962. Her black hair swayed so elegantly in the breeze. Her inky paws, holding her newly acquired captain’s insignias over your hand, and then depositing them into your possession.
  964. ”I don’t want you by my side.”
  966. Her soul piercing stare is the last memory you have of the beautiful, black-haired werewolf you grew up with.
  968. “All you’re going to do is hinder me, and the last thing I want is to have to kill you. From this moment, consider our relationship over. We are neither lovers nor siblings. If we meet again, it may be as enemies. Do not hesitate to kill me if that is the case, because I will not treat you with the same sentiment.”
  970. She turns her back on you after tossing her dark green garrison cap into the street.
  972. It started raining after that.
  974. >”She kicked you to the curb and went off to play the part of the righteous hero with those rebels. Don’t you think that maybe she’s just going to toss you away again? That you’re just expendable in her eyes?”
  976. >”You’re wrong!
  978. >”Am I?”
  980. >“She didn’t want to pull me into the life of an outlaw!”
  982. >”If you had met again, as enemies, would you have pulled the trigger?”
  984. >”What kind of question is that?!”
  986. >”Just answer it.”
  988. Could you really have killed her? Your doting older sister? Your first lover? The one that pulled you from the streets of Taizan and demanded that her father take you in? Could you really kill someone so precious to you?
  990. >”Of course not!”
  992. >”Can you really believe she’d have exercised the same restraint, despite having warned you that she would show you no mercy?”
  994. You counter.
  996. >”She came back for me!”
  998. >”And where has that led you?”
  1000. You’re silent.
  1002. >”Look Anony, all I’m trying to say is that you have to consider that all you are to her is a subordinate now. You’re a tool. Just look at how she’s got you plastered all over the media. All you are to her is a means to an end.”
  1004. >”I think it’s time you left.” you say.
  1006. She gets off your chest and looks you in the eye, her green eyes glare at you.
  1008. >”Fine. Do as you will, Anony. Just try and keep this in mind. There is a difference between a master and a partner. I hope you realize which one she is before you get burned. One offers you praise and rewards, the other offers you love and compassion.”
  1010. She crawls off of you and dresses herself in her uniform. She tosses you a roll of gauze she’d been keeping in her pocket, she’d obviously been planning ahead for the eventuality that she’d torn your back apart. She takes the micro jammer and places it in her jacket. She at last positions her Peak cap on her head and mutters one last thing before leaving.
  1012. >”I love you, Anony. Please remember that.”
  1014. Her expression only denotes pain and melancholy as she turns away from you.
  1016. When at last the door closes behind her, you bet yourself it’s not going to be the last you see of her for awhile. If anything she’ll be back here within a month, tops. She always was quite protective. Out of the corner of your eye you spot her discarded panties and her bra.
  1018. Well Shit.
  1020. After tending to your wounds you lay back in your bed with fresh sheets.
  1022. All you can think about is how it will be impossible to scrub her scent off of you and how you can’t possibly continue where the two of you left off in Crail. Those days are long over. You’re needed at Rushka’s side. She’d be lost without you.
  1024. That whole speech she gave you was just her bullshiting to keep you at bay.
  1026. She clearly wants you back, right? She has to, she’s your beloved elder sister. Your dearest friend and ally. She obviously holds you in the same regard. Right now she’s just sick. When this is all over you’ll help her put it all behind her and she’ll be free. Then you’ll do everything you can to make her happy. You’ll give her a child, and fulfill her every wish. Then all will be well with the world.
  1028. You drift off to sleep with a sliver of hope that the future will be brighter.
  1031. ……
  1033. ………………………………………………
  1037. Two days pass by and the call comes in. Rushka requires your presence down south.
  1039. The train to Rider is filled with the sounds of eager soldiers spewing propaganda. They offer to buy you rounds and generally kiss your ass. You mainly stick to the officer’s cabin but a few freshly minted Ensigns pester you.
  1041. You need a cigarette. Badly.
  1043. You’re driven to the Military base under armed escort. You’re taken through the doors and lead to the elevator. The ride up is quiet. The doors soon open and you’re led to a conference room. Inside is Rushka, a large oomukade wearing an enlisted uniform and glasses, a holstaur, a succubus, and a human man. The group is centered around a digital map on the table.
  1045. The holstaur and succubus are Generals Harriet and Myurza respectively. The signs of age are very evident on General Harriet’s face. The human man is General Ferguson. He is the youngest of the three generals in the room at 43. The identity of the oomukade is unknown to you.
  1047. You stand at attention before speaking.
  1049. >”My Fuhrer, Lieutenant Colonel Anony Mous reporting for duty as requested, Ma’am.”
  1051. Rushka turns to look at you, her one eye holds the wear of little sleep and deep thought.
  1053. The moment her eyes lock on to you, she begins to form a vague expression.To the others it just looks like she’s tired, but the subtle lines under her eyebrows give it away to you.
  1055. Contempt. Suspicion. Or perhaps even fear and worry. All you’re sure of is that it’s negative. You keep your bearing and shut the hell up. You were afraid this would happen.
  1057. You silently pray it’s the last one.
  1059. >”It’s good to see you, Lieutenant Colonel. I trust your fit for duty after your little vacation?”
  1061. >”The wounds are closed and mostly healed, I don’t require bandages or painkillers.
  1063. The scratches on your back still hurt like a bitch though.
  1065. >”Good.”
  1067. She turns to the oomukade
  1069. >”Sergeant Liun, everyone’s here now, please show everyone what you’ve shown me.
  1071. >”Yes, my Fuhrer.”
  1073. The oomukade begins typing away on a digital keyboard interface on the table.
  1075. >”As you can see on the map, our troops are stationed just 5 miles out of Ferrmari. When General Crusoe withdrew from Ferrmari, the Sarkian and Novan ground troops had already taken most of the city. After securing Ferrmari they marched to the surrounding towns on the coast and spread as far as Naga. After taking Naga, which we practically handed over to them following the mass evacuations, they ceased all advances.”
  1077. General Harriet speaks up.
  1079. >”After taking back Naga and pushing back the enemy forces all the way to Ferrmari, we were stopped by a massive line of artillery and defensive encampments. It seems they’ve devoted almost all their resources into defending Ferrmari. All attempts to enter the city have failed. They’ve formed quite the nest egg down south. Therefore, our only option is a full scale invasion.”
  1081. >”Are you insane?” General Ferguson interrupts, “From the reports we’ve been given, you’d be marching our troops into a slaughterhouse!”
  1083. General Myurza replies.
  1085. >”I’m inclined to agree General Ferguson, but Ferrmari’s capture is absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t be offering my support for this invasion if it weren’t a dire situation. According to my scouts, the invading forces have begun unearthing something and if it’s what I think it is, the situation may be more dire than we were first lead to believe.”
  1087. Sergeant Liun pulls up an image of a massive steel door, partially buried. It’s about 50 feet across. On the door is the visage of a masked dragon creature with 3 wings, hooves, and three whip-like tails.
  1089. >”What in the hell is that?” General Ferguson says.
  1091. >”That is the Black Dragon Kaiser, it’s an old folk tale.” General Myurza says, “according to the story of the Great Steel Kingdom, it’s a massive creature that once slept deep underground. It’s  black blood would corrupt those that drank it, driving them insane and urging them to wage war. Soon everyone had been corrupted, and in the midst of the bloodshed, the creature rose up and extinguished all life. Once the creature had nothing left to kill, it went back to sleep deep underground.”
  1093. >”In other words, it’s a warning.” you say.
  1095. >”Yes. Whoever built that door obviously wanted it to stay shut and keep whatever is inside locked up forever.”
  1097. Rushka finally breaks her silence.
  1099. >”Which is precisely why we need to get to it first and either destroy it or take it for ourselves.”
  1101. At that moment, three questions arise in your mind.
  1103. Did Sarkal and Nova know of the door’s existence?
  1105. If so, who told them?
  1107. Also, why are you present at this meeting?
  1109. >”How are we supposed to open it?” you ask.
  1111. >”With the key buried with the person that created the door. General Isaac Minos.” General Myurza replies
  1113. On the screen is an old picture of a long dead Karran general and his wife.
  1115. >”I must remind you that this was over 134 years ago. Before Grania took over our neighbor, Sarkal was still only a collection of Barbarian tribes, and Nova was still a monarchy. I was just a little girl at the time as well. Ferrmari didn’t even exist yet, back then the only thing out here was a military outpost. Very few records exist, the only information we had was about the general that oversaw military operations in the Norran Peninsula area. It required some searching, but we managed to acquire the general’s personal diary. In it, he makes references to something called ‘Vault 108.’ Apparently his wife found something while on a walk, a cave, she had herself a look inside and found something. It doesn’t say what it is, but it drove her to study it. The general paid to have the cave outfitted with top of the line scientific equipment. Slowly, his wife expanded on it, and over the course of 30 years, turned it into a sprawling complex. She gave a key to her husband and kept one for herself. We already took the liberty of relieving the late general of his key. In case you’re wondering.”
  1117. >”Why was it sealed?” General Ferguson asked.
  1119. >”The wife died inside the vault, the general had the vault sealed and then killed himself. Over time the vault was buried and forgotten.” Sergeant Liun says.
  1121. >”So what’s the plan?” you ask.
  1123. General Myurza lays out the plan.
  1125. >”First we need to take the military command center, the diary states that the ‘keyhole’ is deep down in the remains of the original military base. 50 years ago the old one burned to the ground, and the government had a new one built on top of the old one. After securing our access, a small recon team will make their way to the door, the door will be opened and they will head inside, after which, they will have exactly 12 hours to investigate the complex before we reopen the door. The door will be allowed to remain open for 10 minutes, after which we will seal it. During the time they are inside, the team will not be able to maintain radio contact. They are on their own from then on.”
  1127. You suddenly get a very bad feeling. The skin on the back of your neck seems to crawl. You grow anxious and you can feel your breath get shorter. She wouldn’t….
  1129. >”I will lead the expedition personally.” Rushka says.
  1131. You already know what she’s going to say next.
  1133. >”Lieutenant Colonel Mous will be joining me.”
  1135. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1137. After the meeting, as the others shuffled out of the room. You were sitting down, waiting. The clock on the wall ticking quietly. The pocket watch ticked by unintimidated.
  1139. Tick. Tick.
  1140. Tick. Tick.
  1141. Tick. Tick.
  1142. Tick. Tick.
  1143. Tick Tock.
  1145. Rushka is silently sitting beside you. You can feel her fury beating like a war drum.
  1147. Is it hot in here? Or is it just you?
  1149. Shit. Now you’re sweating bullets.
  1151. The door finally closes. The last of the hallway’s light fades like the setting sun.
  1153. Tick Tick Tick
  1154. Tock Tock Tock
  1156. >”Anony.”
  1158. Oh, that’s fucking great.
  1160. >”How was your stay at the hospital? Was it relaxing?”
  1162. >”That depends on what you call relaxing, Ma’am. All that sterile white, the nurses constantly fawning over me like a child, and being forced to stay in that stuffy room. I practically suffocated.”
  1164. >”I hope that pet cat of yours didn’t annoy you.”
  1166. >”No, her company was quite refreshing. It was a nice diversion from all the media and military personnel going in and out of my room 24/7.”
  1168. >”Did she visit you on the fullmoon?”
  1170. First trap. Strategy: Lie.
  1172. >”No, she probably had some kind of date that night. Most girls her age do. Kind of disappointing really. I thought I had an admirer.”
  1174. She’s been keeping tabs on you through the bug in your hospital room. However, she wouldn’t call you out on a lie if it would expose that she’s been monitoring you.
  1176. >”I see. Well you certainly have your charms. So I’m sure you’ll find someone eventually.”
  1178. >”Please, my Fuhrer, you’re flattering me.”
  1180. >”So then, Lieutenant. Then why do you smell like blood and stale sex?
  1182. Yep, her nose is as sharp as ever. No amount of scrubbing could ever wash Christina’s scent off of you.
  1184. You panic.
  1186. >”I don’t know what yo-”
  1188. She moves in a flash, her paw making contact with your collar almost instantaneously. She slams you into the wall. Her piercing stare is like a lance prepared to skewer you. She holds you up with one paw. Her lips curl back in a snarl. Her face is a mere three inches from yours.
  1190. >”Who.” her hot breath pouring over you like a splash of warm water.
  1192. You don’t speak in first. It’s also somewhat difficult to breath since her claws are wrenched around your throat. She’s got a handgun pointed at your head.
  1194. She slams you against the wall again.
  1196. >”WHO.” She spits digging the handgun into your forehead.
  1198. Now you’re pissed off.
  1200. >”What are you gonna do if I don’t tell you? Kill me?”
  1202. Her gaze stiffens suddenly, she’s wide-eyed. She lets you go and you drop. You rub your neck. Rushka avoids looking at you. She’s off staring into space now. After awhile she looks at you again. She grabs you by your jacket and forcibly undresses you. Your jacket is thrown to the floor and she begins to survey your wounds.She runs her fingers down the length of the scars on your back. She bares her fangs in rage.
  1204. >”That woman hurt you, Lieutenant.”
  1206. >”Yeah, but some people just get a little rough sometimes. It wasn’t her fault.”
  1208. She’s silent.
  1210. >”It seems to be in your interest to protect this woman of yours. Do you love her by any chance?”
  1212. >”What? No. It was just sex. I’m probably never going to see her again.”
  1215. ……
  1217. ………
  1219. >”Alright.”
  1221. She lets you go. You pull your jacket back on and button it back up again. She averts her gaze.
  1223. Fuck, now it feels like you’re just twisting a knife in her stomach. She probably feels ashamed for breaking her promise. If she even cares about honoring that. It’s up for debate at this point.
  1225. “I realize she may have some semblance of affection for you” the words echo like drops into a puddle.
  1227. You dismiss Christina’s words.
  1229. No. You refuse to admit it. She’s concerned for you isn’t she?
  1231. She’s just inspecting damaged goods, deciding whether or not to salvage them.
  1233. It makes you angry. Your heart pounds with fury. You let it burn away inside you, it begins to eat away at your mind, your self-control. You tighten your fists. She isn’t looking so you let it show for a brief instant. It all sinks down into the pit of your stomach. Where it festers with everything else.
  1235. Why can’t you be something more to her? Why does she keep pushing you away? Why does she keep denying you?
  1237. What is your purpose?
  1239. She begins to speak once she finishes whatever internal monologue was scrolling through her mind.
  1241. >”Lieutenant. I understand it’s been awhile since you’ve actually been in a warzone.”
  1243. >”Yes, Ma’am. During the past five years of being your assistant I have had minimal contact with enemy forces.”
  1245. >”I also realize that you may be confused as to reason of your recent media exposure. If so allow me to explain.”
  1247. She’s really just going to sweep all that under the rug? Fine.
  1249. She herself stands at attention while she addresses you. You return the gesture in kind.
  1251. >”Lieutenant Colonel, those weren’t the only assassins that have managed to slip past all our security. The band of assassins that attacked during my address were from Sarkal, but they were given the job anonymously. We have next to no information on the origin of the attack. However, the human man we captured was killed by a human woman in an enlisted uniform. The ghoul was immediately placed in protective custody. I’m the only one allowed to see her now. I don’t know who’s responsible, but I have a suspicion this particular case was an inside job.”
  1253. >“What makes you say that?”
  1255. >”They managed to get through all our security checkpoints without raising a single red flag, their fake identities were cross-referenced with all five of the military offices. They were in our records almost a month prior to the attack. This shows an extensive knowledge of our security procedures.”
  1257. >”I see. No wonder you’re on edge.”
  1259. >”Yes, which is why I need your help. In the event I am assassinated, I need you to be prepared to take the reins and seize control.”
  1261. You are speechless. There are no words to describe your horror. Why would she pass you the torch like that?
  1263. >“For that reason, I’m promoting you to the rank of Colonel and appointing you your own task force. They will be hand-picked by you and approved by me. I want you to investigate this incident and any other incidents like it.  I’m scared to say it, but we might have a coup brewing. Watch your back Anon, things are going to get tricky from here on.”
  1265. >”How many soldiers will I be in charge of?”
  1267. >”Around 50 or so. Make good use of them.”
  1269. She salutes you.
  1270. You return the gesture.
  1272. >”Yes, my Fuhrer.”
  1274. You’re shown to a room where you quickly undress and and hop into bed for some sleep. You made sure to lock the door before nodding off. You really don’t feel like getting raped. You need to be focused.
  1276. The next morning you’re called down to the courtyard to a car. Rushka is already inside waiting for you. She’s wearing her uniform. It has crimson lines around the collar and down the sleeves. Her scar is partially hidden beneath her hair. She pushes it out of the way. You sit in silence for the ride to the train station. You’re taken to a private car, it has a bed and a private bathroom. You and Rushka begin to go over the documents for potential recruits.
  1278. You both piece together a team for the expedition.
  1280. Captain Mary Schufer
  1281. Age:33
  1282. Species: Mouse
  1283. Service Record:
  1284. Drafted at 14
  1285. Selected for Officer Training.
  1286. Stationed at Vaxra Military Base (10 years)
  1287. Lead a platoon during Operation Exodus
  1288. Stationed at Kaiser Military base (7 years)
  1289. Specialties:
  1290. Reconnaissance
  1291. Tactics
  1292. Guerilla warfare
  1293. Close Quarters and Hand to Hand combat.
  1294. Black Belt in 4 different martial arts styles.
  1295. Trained at the Monastery of the 3 Masters in Barragos for two years.
  1296. 31 confirmed kills
  1298. Lieutenant 1st Class Yuna Bakarov
  1299. Age: 25
  1300. Species: Novan Direwolf
  1301. Service record:
  1302. Attended Karra Officer’s College. ( 3 years)
  1303. Enlisted as Officer at 20
  1304. Stationed at Narsha Military Base (3 years)
  1305. Specialties:
  1306. Sniper Rifle Operation
  1307. Attained Maximum score possible on all sections of the Shooting Accuracy Exam (SAE)
  1308. Trained in the usage of M-Type Heavy Rifles
  1309. 38 confirmed kills
  1311. Sergeant Major Jared Tyler
  1312. Age: 36
  1313. Species: Human
  1314. Service Record:
  1315. Drafted at 14
  1316. Stationed at Crail Military Command (7 years)
  1317. Stationed at Sheel Military Base (6 years)
  1318. Stationed at Berragos Military Command (8 years)
  1319. Specialties:
  1320. Explosives
  1321. Pyrotechnical Weapons
  1322. Demolition
  1323. Sabotage
  1324. 73 estimated kills
  1326. Corporal Milly Spriggen
  1327. Age: 27
  1328. Species: Holstaur
  1329. Service Record:
  1330. Drafted at 16
  1331. Stationed at Berragos Military Command (11 years)
  1332. Specialties:
  1333. First Aid
  1334. Battlefield Medicine
  1335. 6 confirmed kills
  1337. Corporal George Davis
  1338. Age: 22
  1339. Species: Human
  1340. Service Record:
  1341. Attended Sigurd College of the Sciences (4 years)
  1342. Enlisted at 21
  1343. 1 year at Ferrmari Military Command
  1344. Specialties:
  1345. Majored in Chemistry in College
  1347. Sergeant Kali Geferos
  1348. Age: 57
  1349. Species: Forest Elf
  1350. Service Record:
  1351. Attended Sigurd College of the Sciences (6 years)
  1352. Attended Nero University (6 years)
  1353. Taught at Sigurd Technological University (8 years)
  1354. Enlisted at 37
  1355. Stationed at Kaiser Military Base (10 years)
  1356. Stationed at Sver Military Base (7 years)
  1357. Stationed at Karra R&D lab (3 years)
  1358. Specialties:
  1359. Electronics
  1360. Computers
  1361. Robotics
  1362. Repair & Maintenance
  1363. 3 confirmed kills
  1365. >”I believe that covers all our bases.” you say.
  1367. >”It’s rather convenient that we found a chemistry major for the 6th member of the team.
  1369. >”No kidding.”
  1371. By the time you’ve finished it’s quite late. Rushka emails Karra for the 6 members of the expedition to be brought to Naga Military Base ASAP. You head over to the coach to sleep, but Rushka stops you. She takes you by the hand to the bed and begins peeling your uniform off. You’re just in your underwear now.
  1373. She herself strips nude and gets under the covers. She motions for you to join her. You comply. Your heart beats faster and faster as you lay beside Rushka. All you can think about is how she is naked beneath the blankets. The lights go off, Rushka pulls you into a full body hug. Her claws are sharp and well-kept. They scratch your chest lightly. Her breasts rub against your side.You wonder if she’s going to go further but she simply lays her head on your chest and drifts off to sleep.
  1375. You almost scream.
  1377. You arrive at Naga the next day. The city is empty save for the troops at the base. You stay a couple days while you wait for the team to be assembled. You spend both nights with Rushka, serving as her personal body pillow. You have trouble falling asleep, but Rushka sleeps like a baby. When finally the fearful day comes, Rushka becomes a completely different person. She avoids you, her gaze cuts through you like a knife. The person standing before you, inspecting the 6 specially selected troops, is now Fuhrer Rushka Ferris. This is not your sister Rushka. This is a merciless killer. A demon wearing Rushka’s skin. The last time you got a real look at this person was several weeks ago, when she killed General Crusoe.
  1379. This person scares you.
  1381. The 6 soldiers before you all maintain tight bearing as they are inspected. Except for Corporal Davis, who looks ready to freak out. He’s a pretty lanky young man, only two years younger than you but has seen significantly less than you. He looks fresh and clean for a human being. Guys probably a virgin too. You can practically smell his innocence like a fine cologne.
  1383. Captain Schufer is short as expected standing at only 4 feet tall. Her hair is golden and her eyes blue. Her tail doesn’t budge as she stands. Her eyes feel empty. Just like yours.
  1385. The Lieutenant, Yuna Bakarov, is tall, standing at 7 feet and 3 inches. She, like Rushka, is a Novan Direwolf. She’s likely a descendant of an immigrant when Nova and Karran had relatively decent relations.
  1387. She looks strong and dependable, but you avoid her gaze. She looks too much like Rushka. Well defined facial lines. Large breasts hang from her chest. Her blue eyes trace you up and down, and then they switch to Rushka. She almost nods as she recognizes Rushka’s heritage.
  1389. The Holstaur is like the Captain, she’s seen her share of hell. Likely while patching up soldiers. Her brown hair is shoulder length. Her hazel eyes are quiet. She smells like alcohol.
  1391. The Sergeant Major, Jared Tyler, is a well-built and sturdy man. He looks like shit and is probably hung over. He smells like alcohol as well. His tired green eyes stare right through you.
  1393. The elf stands with pride like most of the others you’ve met. She has nothing of note save for a large scar on her right cheek.
  1395. Having finished her inspection, Rushka stands a few feet away and addresses them.
  1397. >”You are one of 8 teams that will traverse Ferrmari and head to several different appointed locations. The other 7 are decoys. Designed to draw attention and troops away from the vault. While the main army invades Ferrmari, we are going to slip through the cracks in their defenses.
  1398. Once we’ve taken the Military Command, we’re going to set out on foot to a massive excavation site.”
  1400. >”Each of you was selected for your talents, be proud of that. You are serving as the Fuhrer’s personal escort to the vault. Any questions?”
  1402. >”Sir.”
  1404. >”Yes, Corporal Davis”
  1406. >”I don’t understand why I was selected. I’m a fresh recruit, I’ve only been in the military for one year.”
  1408. >”Your file said you studied Chemistry. You were chosen because you were the only Chemist who isn’t a liability to the team.”
  1410. >”Yeah, but I never actually did anything with it!”
  1412. >”You’ve still had training and we need an expert.”
  1414. Corporal Davis goes silent as he realizes he’s not getting out of this assignment.
  1416. The day of the invasion comes quickly. You’re packed into a claustrophobic troop transport. You can the radio buzzing nonstop.
  1418. People are dying outside. They’re dropping like flies. Off somewhere outside this small white world. Beyond your perception. Finally the vehicle stops and the doors open. You’re greeted by the sight of a war torn city.
  1420. Crumbled buildings, charred streets, faded blood stains.
  1422. Welcome back to hell, enjoy your stay.
  1424. You can hear artillery explode off in the distance. Officers barking at there troops. The smell of death is heavy and hangs in the air. Several pillars of smoke rise high into the sky. This is a warzone alright. A place where lives are wasted and prayers go unheard.
  1426. God does not poke his head into hell. But the devil slips into heaven every once in awhile to stir things up.
  1428. >”This too shall pass.” the captain says.
  1430. >”I take it you picked that up at the monastery?”
  1432. >”You’re familiar with the 3 masters teachings?” she asks.
  1434. >”Roughly, I worked under a guy who trained there, he died near Crail.”
  1436. You can see the Military Command Center. It looks like shit.
  1438. You are approached by General Myurza. She looks out of place, she’s clean and she’s smiling.
  1440. >”Welcome to Ferrmari, my Fuhrer.”
  1442. >”Have you found the keyhole yet?” Rushka asks.
  1444. >”We managed to break into the old basement. It goes down surprisingly far. Follow me.”
  1446. You’re brought down into the depths of the old Ferrmari Command. You’re brought down to a small square room. In the center is a pedestal with a square indent.
  1448. >”This is the keyhole.” General Myurza says.
  1450. She produces a small cube from a satchel. It glows a soft orange light.
  1452. >”and this is the key.”
  1454. The elf speaks up.
  1456. >”I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s made of some kind of crystal and it’s actively producing electricity.”
  1458. >”When we found it, we ran countless test on this device. Quite frankly, we have no fucking clue what this thing is. However, we know for a fact it will open the vault. With that in mind, there is no telling what kind of technology could be down there.”
  1460. >”Then this expedition will be well worth the effort.” Rushka says before turning and leaving.
  1462. You watch as the other 7 teams leave through various routes, and the main force marches into the city. You gave one last look at the snipers in their perch as you leave the military command center behind you. They’ll cover you for a short distance. Since there is still a large number of hostile forces in this sector, it could prove useful to have someone watching your back.
  1464. Your team scours through the ruins of Ferrmari on foot, systematically clearing any threats from the housing.
  1466. Rushka’s gaze is empty of pity as she guns down yet another Sarkian soldier. She’s completely calm. Just like you. You lob a grenade into a small house through the window. You hear screams, an explosion, and then silence. Lieutenant Bakarov and Sergeant Tyler rush in and scan the remains of the room.
  1468. >”Clear!” The lieutenant calls.
  1470. The team enters the house quickly and seals the door. The Lieutenant checks the outside through a small window. The smell of blood is thick in the air. It’s all too reminiscent of Crail. You feel your head starting to throb. The captain unrolls a map and lays it flat on a table.
  1472. >”Alright, so our intel was wrong, the next two miles are probably packed with fortifications, including mines, tanks, and mounted machineguns.” Rushka explains, “If we want any hope of breaking through we need to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible. We could try the sewers but chances are they’re already filled with ferals. Back alleys are another option but I don’t trust them. Chances are we’re trapped We need to move before those troops on the front lines start pulling back towards us.”
  1474. >”Ferals?” Corporal Davis asks.
  1476. >”What you’ve never seen a feral, Corporal?”
  1478. >”Not at all.”
  1480. >”A feral is a wild Mamano. Nowadays you only really find them in Sarkal and west Karran.
  1482. >”So-”
  1484. >”Something we really don’t want to fight in a time desperate situation.”
  1486. >”We got company!” Lieutenant Bakarov calls.
  1488. You load a new magazine into your rifle and head over to the window.
  1490. Fuck, they have a tank.
  1492. >”How many we looking at?” Rushka calls.
  1494. >”They’ve got a tank!” you call.
  1496. The tank’s howitzer is aimed at the house.
  1498. >”Everyone out now!”
  1500. Before your team can scurry out, the tank fires a High Explosive round into the wall. The roof caves in near the blast zone. Wood splinters and snaps and the walls begin to crumble and fall around you. You’re all forced to run out the back door into the backyard. You head towards a gate and kick it open. The lock breaks easily. You spot two hostiles and open fire. Sergeant Tyler joins in. The Sarkal soldiers fall to the ground dead. The team charges down the alley and the tank bursts through the wooden plank fence like it’s paper.
  1502. Rushka busts through the fence into another back yard. You follow. The tank opens fire and the captain is just barely caught in the blast. She isn’t hurt too badly. You help pull her into the backyard. Sergeant Tyler pulls the RPG off his back and begins loading a round. You help the Medic gauge the state of the Captain. The mouse just jerks away.
  1504. >”I’m fine!” she barks.
  1506. Rushka barks
  1508. >”I want that thing put down NOW!”
  1510. Before Sergeant Tyler can fire, another howitzer round goes off blowing him away.
  1512. >”Jared!” The medic screams.
  1514. You yourself are knocked away a good distance. There is dirt in your mouth. Your head is throbbing like a handheld massager. You can see Rushka reclaim the RPG and fire it at the tank. It explodes sending a column of flame shooting into the air. Burning forms abandon the tank and fall to the ground a short distance away. You grab your rifle and begin picking off the surviving ground troops from close range.
  1516. Once the area is clear the Medic runs to Sergeant Tyler’s side. She helps him to his feet. Sergeant Tyler is relatively fine, his vest protected from most of the shrapnel. The force of the blast did rattle him quite a bit though. You guess the two of them must be romantically involved.
  1518. >”Shit, we’ve got more coming in.” The elf says.
  1520. >”Damn, everyone into the alley!” You say.
  1522. Looks like you’re following the alleys to the vault.
  1524. The team scurries up the alleyways encountering smaller groups of enemy troops than anticipated. You’re luck is starting to shine through it seems. As you exit the alleys onto an open street a pair of humvees with turrets mounted roll up towards you and your squad. You barrel for cover as the turrets open fire. The quick volley of lead is quickly tearing through the concrete wall you’re trapped behind with the Medic. You toss a couple smoke grenades over to the side and charge for the nearest house. You shoot the lock and enter quickly. You duck and cover before the bullets start tearing through the walls.
  1526. The rest of the team inches closer and manages to lob a few grenades under the humvees. The blasts ignite the gas tanks and the humvees go up in flames. You regroup in the house you took cover in and rest before heading back onto the streets.
  1528. After fighting your way through three tanks and many soldiers, the teams is starting to run low on ammunitions. You start picking ammo off of the dead. It takes some effort to remove the rounds from the magazines and transplant them. It’s tedious but worth it in the long run. The bullets and casings are of similar make so they should be fine, you worry about jamming though.
  1530. At last you come to a point when the sewers become a necessity. The fortifications are too heavy to break through with just a single squad of soldiers. You descend into the dark, wet tunnels and immediately turn on your flashlight. The Tech Specialist keeps a close watch on the motion detector. Rushka looks like she’s ready to explode.
  1532. >”Keep your eyes peeled. If they let Ferals loose down here, we need to keep our guards up.” you say.
  1534. >”Corporal Davis, you take point.” the captain says.
  1536. >”Yes, Ma’am.”
  1538. You quietly skulk through the darkness, hearing the sounds of tanks overhead and shouting.
  1540. You mull over in your head the thought of all those men and women currently dying as the fight for Ferrmari rages on. It scares you to think you might end up trapped down in that vault if they lose control of the command center.
  1542. You spot a 4 pairs of eyes from the ceiling, your worst fears come to light as a giant arachne descends from above. Her skin is pale white and her lower half a sickly violet. She screams and charges. She throws Rushka aside and comes right at you. You open fire but it doesn’t seem to do much good. The nightmarish creature grabs you with her smaller appendages. You know from experience that it’s been trained to only mate with it’s retainer. So you’re not getting raped, no you’re just food.
  1544. Rushka jumps onto the arachne’s back clutching a knife. She attempts to stab the abdomen and pierce her heart but the thick exoskeleton is too thick to break through. The arachne holds you in her pedipalps as she attempts deal with Rushka.
  1546. The other’s open fire but the Arachne’s skin is too thick.
  1548. The arachne swipes at Rushka. Rushka blocks the blow with the knife. The arachne follows up with another. This time Rushka dodges backwards and lunges forward. She stabs the arachne in the chest. The knife is caught in the rib cage and does no discernable damage. Rushka is knocked away with a swipe of the Arachne’s claws. The blade like fingers slicing the flesh on Rushka’s arms.
  1550. The Captain, starts firing a handgun up close and hitting the arachne in the head. However it seems the spider’s head is too well armored to break through. She spits some kind of venom at the captain. Corporal Davis pulls her away in time to watch as the Captain’s former position is eaten away by acid.
  1552. >”So she can spit acid, yeah, ok, that’s totally fair!” the Elf says.
  1554. Another volley of acid spit comes hurtling towards the Medic who jumps backwards and falls into the water. Sergeant Tyler dives in after her.
  1556. You try to wrench your knife free from its sheath. Despite having your right hand on the handle, you’re unable to move your arms upward to unsheath it.
  1558. The Arachne grabs hold of you by your shoulders and relinquishes the grip of her lower arms. She prepares dig her fangs into your neck and you manage to pull your knife free. You stab her in on of her eyes. She screams in pain and drops you. You wrench your knife free and hit the ground. Luckily, you don’t land on the knife. You grab your rifle off the ground and crawl beneath her.
  1560. You spot her chest cavity with your rifle’s flashlight. You let out an earth-shattering bellow as you aim at the soft underbelly and open fire. Her blood rains down upon you as you fill her with lead. She screams in agony as you empty the entire clip into her. She wobbles before finally falling over dead into the water.
  1562. It’s quiet now.
  1564. >”GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!” Corporal Davis yells, “What in the fuck was that?!”
  1566. >”That was a Sarkian Feral. Captured in the wilderness of Sarkal, tortured, trained, and bred by their retainers. They think that just because they aren’t ‘civilized’ they’re just animals and can therefore be trained as such.” The Captain says.
  1568. >”So when you served in Vaxra, you saw those...things?” Corporal Davis said.
  1570. >”I killed my fair share.”
  1572. >”Not all Ferals are like that.” you find yourself saying.
  1574. You start remembering that one time you met a Feral Wurm in the outskirts of Taizan. She was gentle and kind. You used to play with her in the wilderness when Rushka was busy or out with other friends. You remember her eyes being incredibly blue and innocent like a child’s You remember how you put a bullet in her when Sarkal made their first attacks. She’d been twisted with drugs and torture. An empty shell full of fear and primal rage. So unrecognizable, but you still remembered her eyes. Those dulled blue eyes. So much fear. So much empty blood lust.
  1576. >”Well that one was, and it tried to kill us, and there are a lot more down here.”
  1578. >”Yeah...I don’t know why I said that.” you say.
  1580. >”Yo Sarah, how’s the radar looking?”
  1582. >”No movement, but I still think we should get the hell out of here, all that yelling probably attracted some attention.” The tech specialist says.
  1584. >”She’s right,” Rushka says offering you a hand, “We need to get moving.”
  1586. You take her hand and the group presses onward through the dark sewers. You encounter another Feral. A lamia. She’s fast. Her snake’s half is green with diamonds running down the back. She isn’t as impossible to kill as the Arachne. Everyone opens fire as soon as it comes into view. It manages to partially wrap itself around Corporal Davis before finally collapsing.
  1588. That’s the last of the Ferals you encounter before you reach your destination.
  1590. Directly above you is a manhole that opens up right near the vault. There should be fewer guards since Generals Harriet and Myurza are making a hard push a few miles back. There was far less resistance than you anticipated. The decoy teams should have done their jobs by now, with some luck, the vault will be mostly left unguarded save for a few tanks or other armaments. You’re the first one up the ladder. You push hard on the heavy metal plate and pop your head up against it. You can see a large group of soldiers moving. They are heading eastward judging by the sunlight. Away from your destination. You watch them leave and when at last they are out of your view you push the manhole cover aside and leave the “safety” of the sewers behind. The captain, her golden hair shines in the fading sunlight, emerges from the darkness her blue eyes adjusting to the sudden increase in light.
  1592. The second is Corporal Davis followed by Rushka.
  1594. She takes one look at you in the sunlight.
  1596. >”You look like you just fucked a giantess while she was on her period.”
  1598. You look down at your ruined uniform. She’s right.
  1600. >”So which ways the vault?” the Medic says.
  1602. >”It’s two blocks south. If we stay quiet we might be able to get in undetected.” the captain says.
  1604. >”Unlikely.” Rushka says, “They’re not idiots, chances are we’re going to get swamped in a few minutes. The plan was to run to the door, hold down the fort while it opens and closes and then explore the complex. There is no way we can expect to clear the area without raising some kind of alarm.”
  1606. >”She’s right.” you say, “Which is why Sergeant Tyler’s explosive expertise is necessary. Not just to blast the vault apart when we leave, but so we can get in without jumping through too many hoops.”
  1608. You load a fresh clip into your rifle. The team begins quietly traversing the street and getting into position. You can see it now. Down in a pit. There is various excavation equipment around the door as well as explosives. A massive, partially-buried, round, steel door. There’s a pair of tanks blocking the road. The team dares not go any further for fear of being picked up on motion sensors. The Sergeant begins loading an RPG round.
  1610. >”This is the second to last one.” he says.
  1612. >”That’s all we’ll need. Once you fire, whoever’s nearby is going to come running to help. Get ready to run people.”
  1614. Before he can fire the tanks point towards your location. You duck and cover as the howitzers blast a hole in building you were hiding behind. The Sergeant quickly recovers. Foot soldiers begin charging towards you. You come under fire immediately.
  1616. It’s an ambush. They knew you were coming.
  1618. The Sergeant pulls the pin on the tip and aims for the closest tank. He pulls the trigger and the RPG goes flying into the steel behemoth. The tank goes up in a ball of fire claiming the lives of its crew and some nearby soldiers. More troops begin to pour in as you all scramble to get your bearings.
  1620. The Sergeant loads his last RPG and fires at the second tank. Once it’s removed the team runs like a group of mad men. You gun down who you can and run. The world ticks by, second by second, you travel another couple of feet. You’re still alive. You make it to the incline and begin sprinting down into the pit.
  1622. Rushka radios the team at the Command Center.
  1624. >”OPEN THE DOOR!”
  1626. You’re all running  towards the door, praying it will be open when you arrive. Nothing. By the time you reach the door, the cavalry appears. Three more tanks begin to descend into the pit along with foot soldiers. You take cover from the endless hail of bullets behind some of the construction equipment. You fire back as much as you can to provide support. A tank blows a nearby truck sky high. You’re thrown to the ground by the force. The door begins to open, you provide cover fire with the Captain and Sergeant Tyler. You slowly edge back to the vault. You keep your head down. The tanks fire at your location.
  1628. Your gaze is on Rushka. The howitzer round explodes near her. You run to her side, she’s not too injured. You help her up and pull her to the door. Lieutenant Bakarov keeps some pressure off you with coverage fire. And that’s when you spot an unexploded tank round that landed near the mining explosives, it’s only 7 feet away. Your heart sinks in your throat.
  1630. You make a mad dash to the inside of the vault. Rushka struggles to keep up. The tank round goes off and ignites the mining explosives. The force of the explosion is massive. You’re knocked unconscious instantaneously.
  1632. Chapter 1: “Country In Crisis” END
  1634. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1636. Chapter 2: "Into The Depths" START
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