Deep down in a Southeast Asian jungle, three small, green, birds flew beneath the canopy. The lead, bigger than the others, was the mother. Trailing behind her in a V-shape were her two offspring. Both had recently learned to fly, and were now learning how to catch their own food. Having been fed by the mother for the short time since hatching, this was a big change, but a necessary one. This was the wild after all, nature took no pity should they fail this crucial process.
The end however, would not come from starvation, nature had more than one way to test its creations, or outright destroy them. From inside a hollow tree to the right, a black bat launched itself. Spreading its wings and letting out a high-pitched war cry, it snatched the right baby bird out of the air with its jaws. The mother let out a noise of fury, but knew her fledgling was already dead. Her only hope of passing her genes fell to her other child.
Hope that nature had no problem taking. Another bat swept by with alarming speed, taking the last fledgling out of the sky. He landed on a nearby branch and let the bird out of his mouth. It fell a few centimeters to the bark below, empty. The bat stared at the remains of the tiny life he had taken, and bit into it, with no emotion other than his uncontrollable hunger.
The mother bird had lost both her children. Weeks wasted sitting on their white shells, and pouring crushed insects in their mouths. Overcome with anger, an emotion rare in the wild, she adjusted her wings and looped around, spotting the bat feasting on her own flesh and blood. Letting out her own war cry, she rammed the black mammal straight in the chest.
As the bat attempted to regain its footing, the bird lunged again, stabbing it with her beak. The two animals fought on the narrow jungle branch for several minutes, until the mother thrust her beak into the bat’s furry face, and pulled down, ripping its flesh to the bone in some places. With the bird’s beak and the bat’s lower face covered in the blood of vengeance. The black creature was unaffected, almost relishing in the pain.
He began stepping toward the angry mother, replacing her anger with fear. She let out one last roar, one that said do your worst. As she did a louder roar came from above the canopy, so loud trees shook, and animals ran for safety where they could.
Just above the humid city of animals, two large hover engines lifted a small transport craft, with two identical air vehicles trailing behind it in a V-shape. Each was painted green to reflect its allegiance. Allegiance which belonged to Harmony, the only governing body in the solar system. For now.
All three ships were filled with soldiers, not regulars, but three units of Harmonian Wolves. The best of the best when it came to the Harmonian Military. However only one man on the ship had ever seen full scale combat in his lifetime.
Patrick Greenwood looked down at the roof of tree leaves below, wondering what remnants of the past were likely beneath. His one dark blue eye scanning the jungle for any anomalies, the other, artificial green eye, doing the same, both coming up empty handed. He turned his pale, scarred, face from the ground to the inside of the ship, using four cybernetic fingers attached to a hand of flesh to swipe away several locks of jet black hair that fell partway over his eyes and ears. All covered by his signature hood and bandana that only revealed his upper face.
In the seat next to him was his newly elected General, Will Cooper. His face was even paler than usual, decreasing the contrast with his light blue eyes and blond hair.
“If you can’t handle a little heat then why the fuck are you here?” Patrick yelled just loud enough to be heard over the engines. “Same reason as you-“ Will gagged putting a paper bag over his mouth, false alarm.
“This place isn’t Stockholm but I’m willing to fight in it” Cooper said with a thick Scandinavian accent. “Did they not train you for these environments at the academy?” The Leader Responded.
“They tried, but I guess I was too good at everything else for it to be a problem”
“Course they were, idiots” Patrick muttered to himself. He looked out the window, at the airship, it’s shape reminded him of the planes of his day, the only difference being the massive anti-gravity engines in place of the wings. He held his arm out and stuck up his thumb, the pilot of the ship did the same. Greenwood retreated into the lead ship, and came out the other side. He repeated his motion, and watched the pilot do the same.
Now that both craft had been checked, he turned on his headset. “Testing, 1-2-fuck-you, can you hear me?” As the leader of his unit (and Harmony as a whole) it was his duty to brief them. Each soldier held up their hands, they could hear him.
“Shuttle 2 can hear you”
“Shuttle 3 can hear you”
“Everyone got it? Good. Now you know what we’re doing, you’ve all seen the news from the past year. I knew this guy was bad news from the beginning, but of course I couldn’t do much about that, welcome to democracy, but after his election to Leader of the Southeast Asian district, he’s gone over the edge. I know this is the first real conflict any of you have experienced, we’ve had nothing but peace for hundreds of years. I don’t want you feeling overwhelmed, but I don’t want you to underestimate an enemy that’s not an AI, a human will always surprise you. I know we’ve all seen him on the news, talking professional, like a politician, but it’s obvious now that was just an act”
Patrick found Khat’s file, written on paper for improved security, and began to read it.
Lodja Khat. Record shows him to be born of Mara Lae Khat, who moved with him into an apartment in the low class section of Bangkok, both were later evicted and disappeared, only Lodja turned up again when he joined the Harmonian army almost 20 years later. He became the only survivor of a training accident, and left shortly after. Only a few days later a death certificate for Mara Lae is dated. He then enrolls at Navamindradhiraj University, majoring in civics and drama, and also takes classes in philosophy, history, psychology, and medicine, all funded by a military scholarship program and by another mysterious source. Once graduating with average to above average scores in all, he ran for Bangkok’s minister of justice, and lost. One week later his opponent was caught accepting bribes and jailed. A reelection was held, with Khat winning a slim majority. He became known for his sometimes harsh but effective use of the death penalty, seeing crime lower by 10% in the city. He became well known locally for his effectiveness and fairly creative speeches, and after his term came to a close, ran for mayor of Bangkok, winning at only age 27, and seeing crime drop more. After serving a term, he ran for and won the position of Leader of the Southeast Asian District, a region encompassing everything south of the Chinese District, East of the Indian District, and the Indonesian Archipelago above the Australian District.
“We’ve only heard reports, but it looks like he’s arrested his cabinet and stopped all communication, only one message got to us. Said “I am death” I have no idea what he’s smoking but our mission is to figure out what’s going on and only use violence when necessary. At least that’s what we were told. Look, if my experience is right, Khat’s just another self-proclaimed dictator trying to make his own little utopia away from us, believe me this will be an easy mission. I’ve dealt with a million of these psychopaths, and don’t be fooled, they might wear expensive suits and put gel in their hair but their minds have more in common with a vampire bat than yours. For the love of god take any chances you can to kill, these psychopaths don’t ever stop unless you put a bullet in them first. Now remember who we are, we are Harmonian WOLVES!”
Greenwood raised his fist in the air, followed by the rest of the troops. All yelled “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” the Harmonian battlecry.
He lowered his fist and walked back to the side of the shuttle. Looking back at the men and women he would fight beside, knowing he would most likely forget them after the mission. All were of different races, languages, and species, the best the solar system had to offer. The majority were of course humans, male and female, the most common species, sitting with them were others, including several plants, and walking leaves were only the most familiar. Juyks, a humanoid, grey, species native to the moon, invented their signature disk spacecraft and inspired tales of grey aliens before their first public contact. Enjums, another humanoid race native to Mars, most were rust red in color possessed strong arms evolved for digging, and had to wear special eyewear when outside. Even a Kion was on the trip, native to Titan, each varied in brownish-black colors and possessed wings useless on most large planets. Most of the alien species were obviously uncomfortable, they had evolved to live in dangerous places, barren landscapes with little sunlight, thin atmospheres bombarded with radiation, even the cold vacuum of space, but all were cold, earth was the second hottest terrestrial planet in the solar system.
The three shuttles passed over the remains of a highway, most of the soldiers stared at it in awe as they passed, one of the rare intact monuments to an older time. Patrick did not even glance at it, having seen plenty of highways in his own time, and being a relic himself.
They began to pass over more populated areas. Mostly old fashioned farms. Below, farmers looked up at a more complicated life, some were happy to not be apart of it, for others it made them wish for something bigger.
Many things entered and exited the view from the sides of the shuttles, farms, railroads, small buildings, and mostly just jungle.
Finally the skyline of the Southeast Asian District’s Capital, Hanoi, came into view. Only the tops of its tallest buildings came into view at first. All covered in glass, except for one in the center, while not the tallest, it was the most important. The Leader’s Palace was about 80 stories tall and had an outer coating of granite, the top floor was almost all granite, except for a half circle hanging off the side, covered with a giant window overlooking downtown Hanoi.
But nothing seemed right, the city felt empty, even from that far away. As they approached from the west they could see objects on the two skyscrapers at either side of the main plaza, once a road. The uneasy feeling amplified when they got just close enough to make out some details.
Objects came into focus until all at once they realized what they were, bodies. Each one mangled, burned, torn, mutilated. All hanging off the buildings like meat racks, and all had signs above. Thief, traitor, scammer, pedophile, killer...
Each soldier was silent, they had seen gore like this in simulations and sometimes even training, but never on this scale.
“Get a good look at that” Patrick said, “I guarantee you they’ll be more”
As they hovered above plazas and walkways that led to the capital, there was not a live person to be found. Just rows of blood and flesh.
“Where… where is everyone?” a voice identified as Will Cooper asked. “somewhere else… shits about to go down, keep a really close eye out” The Leader answered.
The three shuttles continued to drift through the city. Someone in the front spotted something hanging between two buildings, right in the middle of their path. It didn’t take a genius to see yet another body. This one was a juyk, and was covered in bruises, cuts, and burns. A wooden plaque hanging from its chest read Yeslo Kuc, the name of the leader of a slaving ring in the asteroid belt. So many ships had been seized and raided by his gang going through the belt of rocks, and later sold illegally to others throughout the system. Yeslo’s, cold, dead, eyes were still full of fear.
“I guess we have a bigger problem now” the other Leader said from inside the shuttle. On the buildings beside the body were the corpses of the other slavers, all varying species, and all with the same scratches, bruises, and fear filled eyes of Kuc. The cat known as Lodja Khat had left a gift on Harmony’s doorstep.
The hanging corpse was behind the three stubborn shuttles, the next two buildings had no bodies. Simply bare and empty. Patrick looked at them suspiciously, Will only watched, the Wolves questioned their surroundings, and the pilots pressed on.
Greenwood was considering moving the shuttles above the buildings, and scanned the path one last time. Just finishing as he noticed a line cutting diagonally across his view, what looked like a cable, or a tripwire.
In realization as they drew closer at considerable speed, his hand rocketed to the button on his headset.
“ALL SHUTTLES HALT!”
It was too late, the shuttle to the right of him clipped the wire. Loud banging was heard inside the building just in front of it. Crashing through the skeleton of steel and glass came something similar to a piece of makeshift artillery. The contraption came to a halt and out of its barrel spewed a warcry of flames straight into the shuttle. Ear-piercing screams flowed from the headsets into each soldiers ears, some forced to throw them off.
The burning shuttle slammed into the building, leaving a great mark across the side. Finally it hit the walkway below in one final fireball, and the screams died down.
Soldiers in the other two shuttles stared in awe at their first taste of battle. One began rocking back and forth “oh god oh god oh god…”
Patrick, quickly recovering from the previous events, noticed this. “Hey! GET YOURSELF TOGE-“ The soldier got to his feet and sprinted to the open side of the ship. His commander’s arm was not fast enough to keep him there. He plummeted to the ground below.
“Fuck! Anyone else gonna jump?” Nobody said anything. “I’m not turning us around so you better know this is what you signed up-“
A loud boom was heard in the distance, the Leader ran to the other side in time to see the other shuttle slammed straight in the cockpit by an orange ball about a meter across, most likely heated metal. Again, screams were heard all throughout the network of headsets.
The shuttle tilted into an adjacent building, just like the last one, but this time soldiers could be seen escaping. All jumping out and pulling open parachutes. The roasted transport fell a few hundred feet to the ground below, empty.
Soldiers on the remaining shuttle felt a sense of hope. Hope that war had no problem taking.
Another makeshift flamethrower burst through the glass, blasting orange heat at the floating soldiers. The screams started up again, the screams of a slow and fiery death.
Two untouched bodies made it to the ground, attempting to extinguish those who were in the path of the flame.
The Leader had lost both his other units. Years wasted training in simulations, and feeding them rations. Overcome with anger, an emotion common in leadership, he instructed “Keep going, this is personal now”
Moving the shuttle above the buildings, they turned to the Leader’s Palace and fed twice as much power to the magnets that kept them in the air.
From the half circle hanging off the side of the Palace, the District Leader stared at the many lives he had taken, and smiled, with no emotion other than his uncontrollable satisfaction.
His bright brown eyes looked on at the remaining shuttle speeding to him, he had set no traps for this one, this one he wanted to have some fun with, this one he would have some fun with.
He let out a chuckle while blood began to stream down his gray-brown arm. His knife was already down the length of his hand and almost a centimeter deep. The chuckles turned into laughter, pure, real laughter. Lodja Khat tilted back a head of once combed and professional Thai black hair, now unkempt and messy. He laughed.
The shuttle spiraled around the building, it’s inhabitants attempting to look inside the small windows, a vain effort to see what they were up against. Most were scared, but their Leader still assumed it would be a quick job, as all jobs of this type usually were.
It came around and flew by the giant window in front. Too fast for the crew to get a good look, but long enough for a trained eye. Patrick was the slightest bit surprised by Lodja’s deteriorated state, expecting a more professional look that psychopaths in politics embraced. Sure this psychopath went for a more… unique approach, especially when he was pulling a knife down his own hand, but he would fall just like the rest.
At the top, the shuttle set down on the landing pad, a standard part of the roofs of government buildings. Patrick leaned into the cockpit, looking through the front window as he prepared himself for another confrontation. Two men were seen standing near the entrance to the stairway and elevators. One had a large pack on his back and held a long object in his hands, obviously not a gun, but something else. Standing near him, the other man, a woman upon closer look, held a larger object. The Harmonian Leader leaned in.
“That’s a rocket launcher” The woman pointed it straight at them. “EVERYONE OUT NOW!”
Patrick pushed himself back, crawling with the rest of the panicked soldiers out the sides of the craft as quickly as physically possible. He felt a blast of heat behind him. The shockwave did a better job pushing everyone out than their arms and legs. Greenwood pushed himself up before everyone else, taking in a quick 360 of his surroundings.
The shuttle was destroyed, he knew the pilot couldn’t have made it in time, and probably suffered the worst of the explosion. Inside several more soldiers failed to escape, even the one Kion lay on the floor burning. Turning to the right from the shuttle, he could see Will Cooper, getting to his feet faster than most. Behind him an oak leaf was flopping around, burning like tinder while a couple soldiers attempted to extinguish the flames. He took an extra half second to read the walking plant’s nametag, Greenstipe. Continuing to spin, he saw the main group of soldiers, the ones at the edge were already up, not having been knocked down in the chaos. The majority in the center were in the process of getting themselves to their feet. The 360 was finished at the view of the two with the rocket launcher. The man threw the woman a rocket, that’s what he was carrying, reaching around his back he grabbed another one.
The Leader raised his bayoneted assault rifle to meet them. It was ancient compared to the modern plasma ball spitters that the rest of the soldiers had, this was a personal preference he had the right to make, it was what he had used for hundreds of years before, and what he was best with.
Solid bullets sailed through the air to the two targets, who both ran behind the rectangular building on the roof that housed the entrance. He knew he had wounded the one carrying the rockets, but they were both fight capable. To his side he glimpsed Will Cooper, already up and pointing his plasma rifle at the corner where the two hid. They made eye contact and Patrick made a motion, one that told Will to go to the right of the building and flank them, while he kept them from running to the left.
Rocket Woman spun around the corner, now close enough to see detail. She looked like an average southeast Asian woman, small eyes, and light brown skin. But wearing a recognizable Harmonian army uniform, painted mostly black. Patrick could only assume Rocket Man wore the same.
He never got a chance to see though. Rocket Woman launched another explosive projectile in his direction. Just barely dodging it, he kept his eye on her despite the explosion behind him. An explosion followed by the sounds and sight of plasma balls. Some of the recovered soldiers were sprinting to his position.
Will Cooper ran to the right wall, and prepared to clear the roof. He held his rifle to his chest and planned his attack. The General could easily snipe them from his position, but he had a better idea.
Will took in a deep breath, then several steps away from the wall, and finally sprinted to his left.
Rocket Man turned his head in time to see a single plasma ball travel from the General’s barrel, down his field of vision, and straight into the 50 pounds of explosives on his back, Rocket Man closed his eyes.
Patrick only saw an explosion throw him and everyone around him back.
Below him Lodja Khat felt a shudder, and smiled.
All that was left of the entrance building was a layered wall of bricks a few feet tall, the doors were crushed and bent, and pieces of the roof were falling back like boiling rain. Patrick looked around himself again, saw two arms wrapped around a broken piece of the roof’s perimeter wall, and ran to them.
He grabbed Will’s hands and lifted him to the other side with little effort.
“Holy hell” the General said, “That was something”
“Seen a million like it, still though, nice job”
At what was left of the roof building, a single Harmonian soldier peered over the brick and rubble down the shaft where the elevator once was, it seemed to go down for miles, and the soldier needed something memorizing after what he had been through. So much that he only half payed attention to the opening of a door several floors below. A man with a gun leaned out, wearing a Harmonian uniform painted black. The soldier broke his trance and his hand went to his gun. Too late however, the man pointed his gun upwards and fired.
The Harmonian Leader looked to the soldier, bent over the shaft, hand on his gun. A single plasma bullet went through the soldier’s head, his body slumped and fell into the shaft, falling 80 stories to join the elevator.
“NOBODY LOOKS IN THE SHAFT UNLESS YOU WANNA GET SHOT!” Patrick yelled, he knew more of Lodja’s goons would be up in minutes. He ran to where several soldiers were caring for the wounded, he crouched next to them, reading their names at the same time. Of course there was Greenstripe, who was being cared for by a woman with short brown hair named Rachel Greene, and a Juyk named Lokm. Another wounded was the pilot, the pilot? Patrick had thought him to be dead, that said he was close to it. Most of the pilot’s face and torso was burned, and he was missing several fingers, his bent nametag hung on by a few charred shreds and read Steve Osborne.
“Your parachutes still work right?” Only Lokm nodded.
Rachel’s face turned to worry “Mine was burned I had to take it off!”
Patrick sighed and took off his, handing it to her he said “Okay I want you to each take one of these soldiers and jump! Pull your chutes halfway down, and once you’re at the bottom, get out of the city as quick as possible! GO!”
“Thank you” Rachel said, grabbing the pilot, Lokm grabbed Greenstripe. Lokm made it to the edge of the roof due to his lighter load, while Rachel took longer dragging Steve by the shoulder, who moaned in pain. Both made their passengers hold on as tight as they could, and leaped off the roof.
Patrick couldn’t help but watch. Peering over the edge, quickly checking for anyone sniping him from a window, and watching the two pairs fall.
They obeyed his orders and unleashed their parachutes halfway down the building. Both pulled the straps and tilted them, drifting away down the plazas, out of his hands.
Will rounded up the rest of the soldiers for Patrick, expecting a plan of attack from him.
The Leader ran to the group. “We don’t know how many we got below, but our main priority should be killing Lodja, anyone else who tries to fight you is just in the way, I’ll lead the charge, Will, you’ll stay in the middle of the group, be ready to take command if I fall” All knew that wouldn’t happen. Patrick counted his men, only 13 soldiers left for the attack out of the 60 total he had brought. They could still finish the job if they played it right.
He motioned to his men, instructing them to follow. All grouped up into a rectangle three soldiers wide and four soldiers long, one odd soldier in the back, Patrick in the front, and Will in the middle. They marched through the rubble that used to be the roof’s doorway, down the stairway and into the building.
Inside everything felt normal, but empty. The Hallway was long, the floor decorated with a green carpet, peppered with red stains. The walls were mostly plaster, striped by sheets of gold foil, a once rare metal now found in tons in belt asteroids. The ceiling felt the most eerie, plaster like the walls, and cavities where glowing plants could be inserted for lighting.
Eyes were peering in every direction, and got more tense as they approached the first hallway intersection. Patrick through up his fist, stopping the wall of soldiers. He turned his head to the closest two, making hand motions that instructed each to take a wall and have a look. The right one, an Enjum, took the right wall, the left, an arab human, took the left wall. Both creeped up to their respective corners, and turned with their guns.
The Enjum looked through his eyewear at another empty hallway, steadily breathing the small bits of carbon dioxide in the air. He moved his eyes to a corner at the opposite end of his. A man in a spray painted uniform leaned out.
Bits of plasma and Enjum flesh spattered on the rest of the soldiers. The arab swiveled his head, looking away from his hallway, out of which came another enemy, and one dead arab.
Every soldier took several steps back, both enemy soldiers took several steps back. An old fashioned Mexican standoff.
For a fraction of a second, Patrick weighed his options, and decided. He put up his hand to his unit, and instructed Will to take the right corner, Patrick took the left.
Will aimed his rifle in the same direction and stance the arab had seconds earlier, the enemy jumped again.
The enemy on the left side only heard a gunshot, he didn’t know which. He waited several seconds. Run or pick them off, those were his options. If he ran they would simply follow, but he could have a higher survival chance, if he fought and his ally in the other hallway was still alive, he could stand a chance. He thought more, he no longer owed allegiance to the Leader on the other side he had a new Leader, the one waiting in the half circle, likely laughing.
He committed himself to his values and swung around the corner. The first thing he saw was a black haired man in a hood, a blonde haired man in an army uniform, and a dead body wearing an army suit spray painted black. A plasma ball and a chunk of lead went through his head.
Patrick led the rest of his troops through the hallways. So far it had been a normal operation, a district leader trying for independence, and a small army of people dumb enough to follow. Even then he had taken on bigger. He remembered days long ago, back when it was Russians, or Warlords, or even Robot Animals. He came back to the present and looked behind him. Down to eleven, less than he wanted, but enough for the job.
They marched through several more hallways, as alert as possible. They passed through another seemingly normal intersection, going through with no issue until they began to walk away. Two enemies jumped out, seemingly materializing from the empty halls. Both were fast enough to take out one of the back soldiers before being gunned down themselves. Harmony was down to nine.
All soldiers were exhausted. In only an hour they had experienced more than they had in all their training, thinking about how quickly they had lost colleagues that had been with them for years, how they would live afterwards if they survived. They wondered if this was the last day of their lives, they wondered if it could get worse. A loud thumping sound was heard, coming from above, from the speakers.
“The Harmonian vines creep their way to everything…” Lodja’s voice was rough and had a fairly thin Asian accent. “…suffocating everything, every rock, every clover patch, every tree trying to sprout, it only ends in death, I will take death to the next level”
“WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU!?” A soldier shouted, overcome with anger at hearing the voice that killed his brothers and sisters.
“A very uncontrolled response from a Wolf of Harmony, I’m in my office, and I’m waiting”
The group picked up speed, going straight for the office with haste, but careful at the same time.
“He’s gonna wanna fight me when we get there” Patrick said, “Haven’t had a fight with an actual enemy in awhile, I’ll go easy on him, keep it fun, but once it’s over you guys can move in”
“Can you make him suffer?” Will responded. “Just a little bit?”
“A little bit… and I’ll pass it off as collateral damage”
The voice of Lodja Khat again echoed through the halls.
“Three little birdies came to our terr-it-or-y. One went CRACKLE the other went BAM!...”
This taunting was all the soldiers needed to keep themselves up, each simply wanted to avenge their comrades and leave, and they planned on exactly that.
“…The last little birdie fought til the end, the last little birdie went up against death…”
Patrick caught sight of the door to the office, made of a layer of wood above a likely core of steel, and on the front a gold plaque that should’ve said Lodja Khat Harmonian District Leader. “Harmonian District Leader” had been completely chiseled out, and Lord Death had been painted on in a type of black ink.
The soldiers lined up on the walls, making final preparations and silent prayers. Patrick and Will took the front, nodded at each other, and together, kicked open the door.
Two bodies, no, people, fell over the doorway, hanging from nooses and struggling. Before thinking both Harmonian leaders pulled their triggers. After several shots their minds processed what their eyes told them. A man and a woman, both dressed nicely, members of Lodja’s cabinet, now dead.
A loud boom came from behind, everyone turned around to see another two soldiers dead, the backs of their heads full of metal pellets and above them, blackened holes in the walls. Harmony was down to seven.
Patrick raised the bayonet on his rifle and cut down one of the hanging bodies, holding it over the front of his with a hand around the neck. Will hesitantly did the same. Looking up they got their first look at Lord Death.
He wore a black sleeveless robe, obviously makeshift and with a hood folded in the back, and looked as if it had been roughly stitched together, the edges were ripped and filled with holes. The Leader’s left hand was pouring blood, the right held a curved sword about a meter long and covered in a spiral string of razor wire.
His hair kept the rough shape of a styled professional but now looked ignored and unkempt. A pair of bright brown eyes pierced both almost as much as the smile, all topping off a face oddly caucasian in shape but had the light brown skin of a southeast asian.
The Harmonian Leader and the General spread out from the doorway while soldiers filled the space between. Lodja wasted no time.
“The last little birdie went up against death”
Patrick was the first to speak. “Impressive, I’m still gonna have to kill you, but impressive”
“I take it you liked the bodies, people you’ve been after for a long, long, time, finally getting what was coming to them, days spent letting them feel the grip of death just a bit longer. Where you simply put a bullet in their head, I beat slavers to death with their clubs and whips, I mutilated murderers with the knives they used, I took everything from thieves, until the end…”
While talking both Leaders began walking past each other, two shows of intimidation that seemed to cancel each other out.
“You won’t be needing that shield, I’m not planning on using my gun”
Patrick stood for a second then dropped the body.
Lodja held up his sword.
The Leader of Harmony nodded, and held up his assault rifle like his own sword, the bayonet on top shining in the sunlight. Letting out his own war cry “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS!” He rammed the mammal straight on.
As the other Leader attempted to regain his footing, Patrick lunged again stabbing at him with his bayonet. Lodja, held his own, obviously showing years of training.
“Sic Semper Tyrannis, Thus Always to Tyrants, didn’t you write a whole book on that?”
Lodja blocked Patrick’s bayonet, which slid off with sparks.
“Symptoms of Tyranny, wasn’t it? Good read, amazing how accurate it can be a thousand years after you killed the last of them…”
Patrick swung at Lodja’s waist, Lodja dodged.
“...you were right, just like a medical diagnosis, what were the actual symptoms again? Oh yeah, ‘Symptom 1: Disarmament of the Population…’”
Will and the others formed a circle around the duel, in case things went wrong.
“‘...prohibition of citizens to own firearms, they will have no way to defend themselves, and will come to rely on your police force, keeping them submissive. Best example: Scandinavian Union...’”
Will looked down at his own rifle, and took a second to think about his homeland.
“...I’ll recycle them for the military and police, any protesters will be shot by their own weapons!...”
Lodja took a step back towards the window as Patrick took another step forward.
“...‘Symptom 2: Fearmongering, using a recent tragedy to justify extreme expansion of power and violation of rights. Best example: United States, this tactic has been very, very, helpful, something might blow up in the near future and it might be “your” fault!...”
Patrick again swung his gun at him, Lodja ducked. The massive rifle smashed into the glass behind, leaving a large hole. The sound of wind came into the office.
“‘...Symptom 3: Faith, usage of pro-religious or anti-religious culture to justify inhumane acts. Best example: The Crusades, Nazi Germany, the Arab Empire’ I’m taking that a step further...”
Lodja laughed as he dodged another attack.
“...There were plenty more, Overequality, Oligarchy, Corruption, Cultural Trends, Biased Education, but you forgot one…”
Patrick was engulfed by the thought of his latest kill, wanting to see blood pour from his smile, it was all he saw, and Lodja knew it. He charged at the Leader of Harmony, bending down like a game of limbo. He let the rifle pass above him, and knocked it out of Patrick’s hands. The weapon tumbled several meters away.
“...Democracy. You rule the solar system, you are literally the Leader of the entire system. But like a lazy farmer you abide by your ‘morals’ your ‘equality’ your ‘values’ THAT is what will turn future to failure, utopia to dystopia, tameland to wasteland. You’re a Leader with no freedom and authority, a cheetah with no claws and teeth, Best Example: HARMONY!”
Patrick, with fury, attacked Lodja bare handed. The Leader sent a half metal fist into his opponents face. He fell a step back as the figure in the hood grabbed for the blade, instead pulling off the entire string of razor wire. Instincts kicked in, Patrick flew behind Lodja, still dazed. Until the Leader put the wire through his opponents mouth, wrapping it around his head and putting his knee on the birdsnest in the back, and pulled, ripping flesh to bone in some places. The wire cut through the corners of the brown Leader’s mouth, his eyes widened as he felt it rip through his cheeks, finally being stopped centimeters from his ears at the back of his jawline.
Lord Death fell forward, the Leader of Harmony freed his instincts once more. Grabbing Lodja’s arm, still holding the sword, pushing upwards, and finally kicking him back.
The two Leader’s eyes met. With the Harmonian Leader’s hands and the Death Lord’s lower face covered in the blood of vengeance. Lodja began to laugh hysterically. The black figure was unaffected, relishing in the pain.
He held the sword to his own nose, the front was gone, exposing the rarely seen insides of both nostrils. Lord Death put the blade to the base of what was left, then pulled with a smile up through the cartilage and bone.
There were just two triangular holes where a nose once was, both poured sticky red down his face, to a mouth, now tripled in size, smiling both permanently and happily. A tongue found its way through one side, and moved, wiping the curtain of blood from cheek to cheek. He pulled out the section of wire in his mouth.
“What the Leader of Harmony TRULY wanted to do to me!”
Patrick was the only one in the room unimpressed with the display. “Shut the hell up, we’ve got you cornered, you’re gonna stand trial, and be executed our way, I would kill you now but unfortunately that’s what I truly want to do to you”
“Guilty as charged! But unfortunately executions are now our job!” He said as the soldiers forced him up to the window, a bloody shadow against the backdrop of the burning city.
A black robed leg flew forward.
Fingers tightened around triggers.
A black robed leg flew backward.
Irises curled inwards.
A heel hit a large metal object against the glass, one that hadn’t been noticed until then, one that went straight through the glass, one that took with it the end of a coiled rope. Lodja forced himself backwards, crashing through the glass as the weight fell and balls of plasma flew through the air. He grabbed the base of the rope, the end attached to the building, and slid down as the long string unfurled below.
The soldiers leaned out the broken window, shooting at the figure riding down the rope. Lodja tried his best to smile with his ripped cheek muscles as balls of plasma went through the glass near him, becoming more inaccurate the further he fell. He closed his eyes, feeling the pads on his palms being warmed by the friction against the rope.
“BAILOUT! EVERYONE! GET TWO THIRDS DOWN THEN PULL YOUR CHUTES! THE SECOND YOU LAND FIND THE NEAREST COVER!” The Leader of Harmony yelled, soldiers obeyed and began to jump. Patrick readied for the jump himself, only stopping to remember where his parachute went.
“WILL! GRAB ON!” Will did as told and got onto his commander, piggy back style. Patrick ran to the window and jumped with the last of the soldiers.
Lord Death looked up and saw several figures diving in his direction, and gaining speed. He loosened his grip until entering an almost free fall.
Floors came and went past the eight falling figures. The bigger one near the top, made of the two commanders. Patrick thought to himself while he eyeballed the distance to the ground. This was his biggest loss in hundreds of years, all that time there was nothing but peace, sure the odd skirmish like this happened but that almost never ended in fatalities, except of course the enemies themselves. To think he had let this man work his way to the Leader of the District, he had kept a low profile ascending to the top of Bangkok, and made himself known as an aggressive candidate for District Leader later. But until now he was just that, an aggressive candidate, not rare in politics.
He thought he had made a system that could snuff out those that wished to harm from the government all together, there would be many reforms after this incident. To think his first meeting was supposed to be different, the Leader of Harmony was supposed to fly down a few days later, shake his hand, and let him work his wonders on the District. Now he’ll have to repeat the process with someone else.
They were nearing two thirds down the building, Patrick looked to his side, down the plazas, seeing the bodies stapled to the wall. He couldn’t help but at least admire the work. Most would have been executed by Harmony anyway, but that was a faster death, very worst could be a bullet in the head, and he knew just who to put the bullet in. It’s not like he had killed any less throughout his life, and thinking about it, what really separated him from the monster riding down the rope?
The two thirds mark was passed, slightly different according to the nine different eyes scanning it. But all at once eight parachutes unfolded, slowing each down just enough for a painful, but harmless landing.
Nearby, Lodja Khat tightened his grip to the rope, putting each hand muscle to create as much friction as possible, steam emerged from his fist as his legs hit the pavement. Ignoring the pain, and taking a second to glance at his shredded palm pads, he looked ahead, spotting the small concrete barrier he had placed yesterday for this situation.
Will leapt off his commander’s back, “No homo” the Harmonian Leader said as he examined his surroundings, the General was left with a look of slight confusion. Patrick examined his surroundings, the soldiers were throwing off their parachutes in a hurry, some even scanning the surroundings with him. Behind them he saw a black figure, the lower head and neck covered in blood, sprinting to a small concrete barrier. Instincts kicked in, he lifted his rifle, and began shooting.
Lodja heard gunshots, which he knew were destined in his direction, and doubled his pace. Bullets landed in the grass and concrete around his feet. He prepared to stop and crouch, interrupted by a jolt of pain from his ankle. Lord Death fell over, behind the barricade, and pulled the rest of his body to cover.
“I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!” he yelled, “WATCHING MERCILESS PEOPLE BEG YOU FOR MERCY! WATCHING THEIR POWER DRAIN FROM THEM AND INTO YOU! MURDERERS! THIEVES! THOSE THAT DESTROYED LIVES! ALL CALLING OUT IN PERFECT SYNCHRONY!”
The last of the soldiers escaped their parachute straps.
“‘NO PLEASE NO! I PROMISE I’LL STOP I PROMISE I WON’T DO IT AGAIN! I’M SORRY FOR EVERYTHING!’”
A horseshoe was formed around the barricade.
“BUT THAT NEVER STOPPED YOU, NO, IT NEVER STOPPED ME EITHER!”
Patrick processed the words, he could relate to the monster, but knew it was all about to end for him.
“DIDN’T STOP OTHERS EITHER, WE NEED ORDER! WE NEED A NEW WAY OF THINKING! WE NEED DEATH! TO A CRISP AND ALL TO BITS! HAIL THE EXECUTORS!”
That last word echoed through the seemingly empty streets. Patrick waited a moment, then took a step forward. Several pairs of ears picked up the familiar zap and sizzle of a plasma bullet hitting flesh, three soldiers fell to the ground. The other six heads swiveled, one more getting a face full of superheated hydrogen.
Enemies... Executors... emerged from every alley and doorway up to a block down. Forming a row across the plaza. The remaining soldiers held up their weapons, Lodja took the opportunity, pushing his injured leg to the pavement, he pointed his gun straight at the Harmonian Leader’s back. Weighing his options in an instant, Patrick turned his body to meet the Executor Leader
Both Leaders shot a single bullet, one of plasma, and one of lead. The small chunk of lead sailed through the heated gas ball in midair, picking up the slightest bit of energy. The lead buried itself in Lodja’s shoulder, the plasma, scattered by the bullet, sprayed onto Patrick’s chest, to a lessened effect.
Lord Death fell back, picked himself up just as fast, and began running. Patrick prepared for a chase, being interrupted by a scream from behind. Two thirds of the Executors had been taken down, compared to the four Harmonians on the pavement nearby. The Harmonian Leader jumped over the barricade, crouching in the same place his enemy had seconds earlier, keeping below the line of fire, he attempted to shoot the fleeing figure.
Will Cooper cupped his ear, wincing. Next to him another soldier retracted his gun, hiding behind the column with the General. Across the walkway, two more soldiers took cover in a doorway. Together they started picking off the remaining Executors. Several more had been killed when one of the bullets made it to the leading doorway soldier, she fell over outside of cover where the remaining few finished her. The last soldier took it upon himself, charging straight into the line, taking down another two before falling.
Patrick lifted his head over the barricade, there were four Executors left, but only two soldiers, including Will. The remaining soldier leaned from behind the pillar, like he had been doing, only to get shot in the neck. Weighing his options again, he turned his rifle the opposite direction. The remaining Executors were caught off guard, and gone within seconds.
Will ran to him, taking his hand off his ear. A plasma ball had grazed past it, taking the upper part of his ear with it.
“They’re… they’re all gone!” The General muttered. “So are they” The Leader said, pointing to the dead Executor bodies, “Comon, we gotta catch this sick fuck”
Lodja slowed down, knowing he could afford it for at least a minute. He stared up at the bodies hanging from the tops of the buildings, admiring his work. He looked ahead, and saw a lone figure hanging from a rope in the distance, which he immediately recognized as Yeslo Kuc. Until yesterday he was Harmony’s biggest problem, not much compared to past enemies, but the go to when one wanted to reference a modern threat. All the innocents he enslaved, from all the ships travelling through the asteroid belt, on their way to the outer planets, likely Europa or Titan. Of course Lodja himself wasn’t above the use of slave labor, or above any of the crimes his victims committed, most of which he had already done himself. Lodja simply wanted to watch people fall, especially the powerful. All the people he had killed so far had committed crimes, often even taken lives themselves, Lord Death had just barely avenged more than he killed. But that was back during his small time sprees, he was in the big picture now. The scale was dipping slightly to the left, and was about to plummet to the right.
He knew the most powerful man in the world, and whoever survived with him were close on his tail. There was a reason he never used the best of his colleagues for this mission. The rocket twins, the hallway guards, the plaza fighters, of course none would’ve survived, he didn’t tell them that, but they had done their job of cutting down the main force, a few at a time. The final step of the day’s plan was nearing, he picked up speed toward the city prison.
Patrick eyed the blood trail, stretching far away and past a nearby corner, it wouldn’t be hard to track the man down, then again it could be another trick. But how could he do that? he couldn’t make a fake blood trail, he was already bleeding. The only thing he could do was lead them into a trap, or bleed out mid way. Again, the Leader weighed his options, and continued.
He hoped for the first scenario.
The Leader and the General turned the corner, and ran into another two soldiers. Guns went in the air. The hostile air dispersed as quickly as it formed when both pairs recognized each other.
A tall man with black hair cut short and tanned skin, two green frenzied eyes looking at the Leader and the General, his nametag read Keith Corp. And the other, a much darker skinned man, with curly brown hair the same color as his eyes, his nametag read Justin Marama.
“Keith? Justin?” Will said, happy for the first time in the day, “You survived?”
“No time, gotta move!” The Leader said, the four Harmonians continued to follow the trail.
“That cannon ball came out of nowhere” Keith spoke with a thick mediterranean accent, “Pilot and a few others were killed instantly, it was chaos in the shuttle and on the way to the ground, me and Justin were the only ones out of line of the fireblast”
“We saw that, looked bad”
“It was” This time Justin spoke, with a mixture of a north american and indian accent, “Whoever survived right after died of their burns, we knew nobody in the shuttle could’ve survived the cannonball and the crash, and there was smoke coming from the top of the Leader Palace”
Keith budded in, “So we went toward it, until we found this blood trail, followed it, and ran into you” He paused for a second “What about Lodja?”
Patrick spoke up, “Gone fucking insane, somehow killed all my men, not phased by pain, barely even human”
“Wait…” Keith said, “So we’re the only ones left?”
The Harmonian Leader sighed “We can still get him if we try, with you two our chances are up about 7%”
“You’re trying to calculate our chances of defeating an unpredictable psychopath?” Will said.
The four Harmonians turned by another corner, and the sight was one to behold. Lodja stood at the edge of a pedestal, one that held two legs to a statue, the rest of which was in pieces surrounding the stone structure. Behind it was the city’s main police station, three floors stacked on each other like a cake. The front was covered in a wall of dead policemen, just like the upper buildings. The trail ended in a pool of blood, sustained by drops running down the side of the pedestal, originating on Lodja’s torn face.
“YOU THINK I’VE HAD BY BIG MOMENT AND THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS? LIKE A SUICIDE BOMBER OR A SHOOTER? I’M MORE THAN THAT!” Lord death again smiled, his legs shaking.
Patrick held up his rifle, “YOU’RE A JOKER RIPOFF WEARING A GRIM REAPER COSTUME FROM THE HALLOWEEN STORE! AND NOW YOU WON’T BE ANYTHING! I’M GOING TO LIKE THIS!”
“PLANS! ON TOP OF PLANS, ON TOP OF PLANS, ON TOP OF PLANS! I’M SUPPOSED TO LET THAT GO TO WASTE?” Two figures appeared on the roof, and each threw something over, which joined together as one and flapped over the side covering the top row of bodies, a flag. A black flag, painted in the middle, a skull, similar to the pirate flags of a millennium and a half ago, behind the skull, a flaming sword and a plasma rifle, mimicking the two bones commonly seen with flags of it’s type.
“ORDER! A NEW WAY OF THINKING! FIRE! A NEW EMPIRE WILL RISE! DEATH! THIS ISN’T THE END, THIS IS THE BEGINNING!” Lord Death raised his shaking arms, smiling as doors and windows bust open behind him.
All wore police uniforms, painted black, but also tags, it was a very diverse crowd, some wore the uniforms of asylum patients, others wore random assortments of black clothing. Patrick did a rough estimation on the size of the hoard charging at them, but heard yelling from behind him, where another hoard had gathered and again charged. There must have been hundreds, too many even for him. He looked back at the pedestal, Lodja looked straight at him with piercing eyes, holding his smile.
“I GAVE EVERYONE A CHOICE! THE SAME CHOICE I WILL GIVE YOU! EMBRACE THE TRUTH OF THE EXECUTORS OR LIVE IN THE LIE OF LIFE! AND HANG FROM THE BUILDINGS WITH THE REST!”
Patrick weighed his options, seeing a nearby door, he ran and kicked it open.
“I SEE YOU’VE MADE YOUR CHOICE!”
The Harmonian Leader helped the other three inside and slammed it shut as the mob arrived. The four ran through the corridor to the other side of the building, ignoring the sound of cracking wood. They burst through the other side, the mob not far behind, already bullets were landing around them. One got Justin in the leg, yet he pushed on, more scared of the mob than his wound.
“BUDDHISM! ISLAM! CHRISTIANITY! HINDUISM! JUDAISM! HARMONY! ALL WANT CONTROL! YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME! YOU CAN’T… you can’t…”
Finally the weight of Lodja’s injuries was felt, blood flowed from his body, out of where a nose once was, out of two sliced open checks, from stripes of red across his face, and from two plasma wounds. He fell forward into the crowd.
The last of the Harmonian Wolves found an alleyway, Patrick turned and took out several before continuing. The sun was high in the sky as the Leader, the General, and the two soldiers, all ran toward the edge of the city.