Democrats & Liberals Archives

Tales from the Borderlands, Part Six

The game is set, the pieces are in play. Dark forces move the agents of the other side…
They were enjoying a nice meal before Alex Magnus showed up. Steak dinners. They earned it, alright. It wasn’t easy to smuggle people from Eastern Europe in today’s market, especially when prostitution was the value added on the other end of the supply chain. The problem started when Yuri’s knife missed his New York strip and got his thumb instead. By the time Alex was done…

But he was just starting. His feet were propped up on the table. Had anybody else been so presumptuous, they'd have been kicked out. He might have even done it himself, just for the fun of being so damn unfair about it!

The waiter, though, would not bother him. It wasn't because he was especially welcome here. Had the waiter had the presence of mind to notice who he was serving, an ordinary man with Alex's associations might have ended up worse than kicked out. If the waiter had survived this encounter, letting Alex dine there might have cut his luck short with his bosses (who also employed the men eating the steaks), but with Alex, your luck typically ran out when he walked in the door.

Actually, he was sitting outside, but that didn't help much.

The man sucked on his thumb. This was a guy who had broken a man's skull at thirteen years of age over the money in his wallet. He had looked like it then, and looked like it now. Except he was sucking his thumb. His partner laughed. What bothered the man, given a second to think, was that the thumb remained in his mouth. It didn't help that in a second, blood began to trickle from it. He could hear the man's thumb crack from the pressure of his teeth. My God, what was he doing...

He got up, grabbed for his friend's arm. He managed to wrench it free-
good God almost to the bone
His friend grabbed the .44 out of his holster and blew a hole through his chest, taking much of his lung with it. Gasping like a fish out of water, he had little defense as his partner blew his brains all over the front of the nice family restaurant, and the nice family that happened to be in the way.

Did he shoot himself? Nothing so cliched. He took three steps and stiffened. He dropped to the pavement. If anybody had cared to look close enough, they would see the eight-ball hemorrhages spreading in his eyes. Most people would be cowering against the wall of the restaurant, though. Some would assume, for the rest of their lives, that the two had shot at the same time. They would not be mistaken for long.

Alex started with the waiter, who was shouting at the local boss to call his superior, tell him what was going on. The man had his eyes glued on the bloody spectacle. He had known those men. Evidently his paralysis was getting on the waiter's nerves, but one would think that both would snap out of it.

Instead, the waiter merely snapped, grabbing a heavy glass sugar dispenser from the counter by the coffee and smashing the boss across the head. He jumped on the man and then sought to determine which would break first, the dispenser or the man's skull. It was the dispenser, but at that point, the victim was past caring.

So was the thug who had leaped to his defense. His partner had pinned his hand to the counter with a steak knife and smashed his head against the counter. Both murderers, their jobs done, collapsed like puppets with their strings cut, the blood vessels neatly sliced inside their intact skulls.

Alex stood up, drew his two swords. He knew he couldn't keep it up. The Mages in the back room had sensed there was something up, and they would be too single-minded and efficient for him to crack them like he did the others. The first to die tried attacking him directly. One swing, that's all it took. Another tried a telekinetic device with him. The force branched to either side, missed him entirely. Allex dispatched the man with a single off-hand cut. The next was a pyrokinetic Talent. Alex walked right through the hastily-made fire barrier and took his head off. Not a thread of his well tailored clothes was singed. His eyebrows and eyelashes, the only hair on his head, stayed there.

There where three survivors out of the eighteen people who were there that morning. One was a young boy who slipped from his father's grasp. His father squeezed the life out of the other two. He was found with arms were still around them, their faces pressed to his still chest. his case wasn't unique. An old man had done the same to his wife of forty years, crushing her to the ground.

The second survivor was a busboy who had to have quite a few stitches to close up the slash that the cook gave him across his back for being late.

The third survivor was the FBI informant, who became a blubbering mess in Alex's presence. Not much to work with, Alex thought, a coward at heart.

If Alex had truly cared about what the FBI could do to him, he would have remembered the Bureau's ongoing surveillance of the place.

Of the twelve agents who showed up, four would survive. Two would live out their days in institutions. One would wake from the coma several weeks later.

Special Agent Dominic Leonard would be the only man capable of remaining an agent when it was all over.

They knew it was ugly before they got there. The recordings of the events up to their arrival would gave investigators nightmares for years to come.

Dominic would never need to listen to them. He got his nightmares fresh from the scene. They stormed through the front door, guns drawn. The place was deserted, if you only counted the living. After a few seconds of keeping their guns high, they made to put their weapons away. Three of them did. Dominic would only recall a blur as those three were literally cut down. Before they dropped, the other agents had their guns raised again. Even so, Alex would run through a female agent and decapitate her partner so close to Dominic that he felt the wind from the sword and the mist from the blood.

Alex, of course, hid his presence once more. the next part wouldn't be fun if all of them could see. Only the one. Dominic's partner, Jack Weyland. Alex smiled, a rare thing, a beautiful thing in his own mind. Agent Weyland, seeing that same smile, would have appreciated if this particular unfound wonder had remained lost. Alex charged him, swords out, Jack screaming at him to stop.

Alex swung at him. Jack blasted him point blank. With inhuman speed, Alex sidestepped Jack's shot. Jack shot at him again. Another step, another blast. He emptied his handgun, and he couldn't hit the man.

Dominic peeked over an overturned table. Agent Weyland had managed to shoot all but two of the other agents. Fear and panic were written all over him. Then, as if awakening from a dream, he was himself again. He dropped the gun.

It came from the shadows. He came from the shadows. That thing. That man. Weyland knelt before the smiling bastard, the creature who had turned this place into a blood bath. The chill in Dominic's soul grew as he looked upon him. He couldn't stop shaking, even as the monster brought out a razor-sharp sword and placed it at his partner and friend's throat.

"Hold it right there you son of a bitch!" It was Agent Murphy.
She had her weapon to the back of Alex's head. He dropped his swords.
"Okay. I'll admit it. I enjoyed that far too much" he said.
Dominic's fears evaporated. The tone in that creatures voice that thing. He stood up and an faced him with his gun drawn.
"Gideon told me to be careful. I'm not immortal he says. What a pretty pickle I'm in here!"
He jolted towards her, past her gun, and blasted her with crimson lightning. The sword was in his hand- in his hand!- before Dominic even knew it. The creature rushed him.

Dominic unloaded the clip on him as he rushed forward, the roar of his gun and his screaming one and the same. Every one of them missed, save one.

And that one counted. The shoulder. Fury and fear burned in equal measure in his eyes. Before Dominic even had the chance to load the next clip, Alex exploded like a storm of darkness around him, screaming around his ears, even as his chilling presence left the place.

New York City, Six Months Later
The place was dead, even now. Dominic could see the stains of blood and worse. Even the homeless wouldn't stay there. As it was, it was all Agent Leonard could do not to bolt for the door himself.

"Why didn't you ask my help then?" Jake asked.
"We thought he was simply a very powerful Talent or a Crafter with a real nasty device. We hadn't heard much about the Nephilim and Elohim, and what we heard, we could hardly credit. Besides..."
"You wanted revenge."Jake finished.
"I'm sorry. Jack Weyland was my friend. He had a wife, and a newborn son. That son of bitch took everything from him, used him against his own." Dominic seethed.

Jake stood in the center of the restaurant, about where Agent Weyland had, his back to Dominic.
"Zarrach took him apart. Let him have his fear, his anger, but took his awareness of the world around him, cut you and your fellow agents out of his mind. He took love and made it suffocation. Anger and made it rage. Contempt and made it murderous hatred. That's how this guy works. He slices away layers of inhibition, perception, and even memory. Piece by piece, he destroys you. Alex Magnus. Zarrach the Cutter."

"Why does he do this? What purpose does this serve?" Dominic asked.
"Ask yourself that question. I think you already know."

"It sparked a war immediately. Scared the locals. We've seen hate crimes against mages rise, along with all the other violence. But why would he do that?" Dominic asked.
"They want to start a war."
"That much is obvious. They succeeded."
"Not a gang war. Something bigger."
"A race war, a helter skelter?"
"Worse than that."
"Civil war, here in America"
"Worse than that."
"You mean..."
"Global. And final."

Dominic stood there for a moment digesting that.
"You're talking apocalyptic. You're talking end of the world. Like al-Qaeda, the Branch Davidians, Aum Shinrikyo."
"I am talking end of the world, but not apocalyptic."
"I don't follow you."
"These guys are nihilists. They don't do this for the hope of some greater future where the evil and the unworthy have been purged. Apocalyptic literally means a revealing, in essence the revealing of the divine and the banishment of that which is worldly and evil. They want that revelation, which they believe is coming, to become a failure." Jake explained.

Dominic looked at one of the walls, where what looked like scorch marks from an electric arc blackened it.
"I lead those men to their deaths didn't I? I never should have gone after him myself. I don't know know what I can do if we run into him again." he said.

"You've survived two encounters with a Nephilim like him, which is two more than most people manage. You might call that luck, but I do not believe in coincidences. I think you are more than you seem. More than you think you are."

With that Jake walked out of the place, leaving Dominic to his memories.

Washington, D.C.
Chevalier and Associates
Gideon Chevalier, though in his early sixties, had hardly broken a sweat on the jog. He told his employees that he had jogged ever since he was in the Navy.

That was a lie. He had never stepped foot inside a Naval Recruiter's office, much less on board any vessel of the fleet. Confront him, though, and you would find several witnesses, and perhaps even some notable government officials willing to back him up. Tell the world, and lo and behold, new information would arise. Or maybe some documents. Or maybe the eyes of the world would swing back on you, as dirt on you, made up or real, surfaced. The truth didn't matter. The truth was only useful for people who wanted to make a positive difference.

Gideon had no intention of that. In fact, contrary to what some of his followers and customers in the government thought, he had no intention of advancing their party's cause, or anybody's party, for that matter. His job was to prepare the way for his master, who would one day return from where that meddling Ausaka sent him.

Frustration, cynicism, learned helplessness. Deny people the government they need, the government they want. Then join them in their cynicism. Bring them unexpected hope. Ask, then demand their loyalties. Play on their fears, prey on their materialism. Seduce them, betray them, then seduce them again with the claims that you'll avenge them upon their former seducers. Wear enough faces, and no-one will be the wiser.

They might throw the whole group out, but those ambitious enough to seek the posts are often no less corruptible than the ones they replace. They just need longer to get back into the game. You could limit the terms, but that would only make them more incompetent, and more willing to goof off when their time came to a close. You could let them stay, but that would give them the opportunity to spread their corrupt little games and learn how to retain power. There was no way one could win with folks like Gideon in power, was there?

If only it were so simple, Gideon lamented. You had to get people cynical enough that they didn't connect their everyday lives to what the government did, so they didn't pry, and didn't find things that would make them care, and themselves caring force the politicians to care for the sake of their jobs. Whether the politicians stayed short terms or long terms, they would only survive at the sufferance of those who elected them. Where as old governments could ignore the people until their hatred became lethal in character, simply becoming disliked and disfavored was enough to endanger any politician.

So Gideon Chevalier had to walk a thin tightrope to work his damage, to engineer the fall of this robust culture. He was glad he wasn't trying to do this with natural powers alone. Where normal men had to persuade and coax by money and persuasion alone, Gideon could add his subtle mental powers. He gave them elaborate memories, and the sureness of where they could find proof.

There were some powerbrokers he was grooming for the master's court who he kept close to on a constant basis. Some knowingly served him. They only required gentle persuasion. Other, well-meaning souls, he subverted with constant manipulation, shielding them from reality with constant lies and confabulations. They in turn funnelled their hatreds, their paranoia, his lies out for people to believe and act upon.

The results were delicious, but still there remained that thorn in his side.

Correction. The thorns. There was Jacob Riley, the Elohim.

Then there was that FBI agent. Gideon knew to be uncomfortable when the interests of an Elohim focused on an individual. That meant their master was planning something. Usually, that spelled little good for his side.

Fortunately, Gideon was a well connected man, and he knew who to call.

Tales from the Borderlands Omnibus

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at October 7, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #186941

no offense, but what does this crap have to do with a liberal blog???? Isn`t there a website somewhere else where writers can test their writing skills…

Posted by: jaydoh at October 8, 2006 12:46 AM
Comment #186946

I liked the violent bits here (I’m a Republican after all, and naturally bloodthirsty).

The piece is sadly lacking in the area of a romantic interest, however. Seems that if we’re going to have brains blown all over a nice family, we should also be given time to recover from the shock and be treated to a nice tender love affair and a bedroom scene or two. Just my constructive advice…

Posted by: Pilsner at October 8, 2006 1:29 AM
Comment #186947

What is security, in a new world like ours, when the threats aren’t the ones we’re use to?

The lead character here faced a threat far beyond his normal experience. So at first, he’s motivated to seek revenge. He knows this inhuman monster must be stopped, but he’s out of his depth.

Could there be a subtle appeal here to the reader to sympathize with the notion that we could take the wrong path in trying to face an evil, and be better off seeking a new one, with better knowledge of the true threat?

So, to answer your question, a story can express a liberal’s point of view with greater nuance, and perhaps a bit of a fun factor. I get bored with just writing the same old non-fiction essays and comments, so I started writing this story.

You might want to consider how much an evil man like Gideon Chevalier could take advantage of the kind of corruption that kept Mark Foley in politics long after his abuses of power merited his departure.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 8, 2006 1:38 AM
Comment #186950

I felt I had to give people an idea of just how dangerous this man really was. Easy enemies make for short stories.

As for Romance? It’s a possibility, but not a priority.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 8, 2006 2:00 AM
Comment #186963

Stephen: Fantastic! Please refine and develop this more and you will be giving the world a 21st century successor to Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. You give me hope that there are, indeed, young, serious thinkers in the world today. Thank you!

Posted by: Dr. Poshek at October 8, 2006 7:44 AM
Comment #186981

Reminds me of King’s Dark Tower series.

Posted by: Charles Adams at October 8, 2006 10:52 AM
Comment #187074

You have some talent, but it is not yet as sharp as it could be. The primary fault, if I may be permitted to issue such criticism, is that you are too hasty. It is difficult to identify with any character that is not identifying itself. I like alot of the imagery.

For example: … “they would see the eight-ball hemorrhages spreading in his eyes.” This I saw in a dream, not aweful long ago. But, the pupils strained into fine points of black as she lay dying, until, at last, the darkness spilled into the peripherals of the eyes, like the breaking of the suface tension with no time for any mortal to reverse it. Like blight on an old egg, it creeped from the center of its beginning. Seeing this, was like unto seeing a creek go dry, without care or want for knowing its letting or taking of its life.

Posted by: Bill C. at October 9, 2006 6:35 AM
Comment #187121

Bill C.-
A bit too hasty, I agree. There are some reasons for that.

First, I’m mainly a screenwriter, so habits of using dialogue and direct imagery are somewhat ingrained in my style. You can cut out an awful lot of prose if you merely focus on those things.

Second, I’m used to trying to be short and sweet on my writings here. I’m always surprised at how short they seem on the reading, given how long they feel when I’m writing them.

There are other reasons, though, that this sequence might have turned out underwritten, and these are more to do with my intent. I might have added a few lines, but I would have kept the prose detailing the action fairly spare from the start, for one simple reason: momentum. This restaurant was meant to go to hell and go to hell fast, given people little chance to simply walk out the door. The speed with which the people, both mage and non-mage are dispatched also indicates the monstrous power of Alex Magnus. In short, he would make short work of virtually any lesser being. Only somebody special, or fairly lucky could hope to stand against him and live.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 9, 2006 11:41 AM
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