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#1 Offline Brooklyn Pace-Carlisle

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Posted May 04 2012 - 02:41 PM

Prologue: I Should Have Been a Botanist

Outskirts of Ko-Wahi, Present Day

"And you are aware of the dangers of this procedure, yes?"

With these types of questions that doctors always ask, it's a wonder that more people don't just get tired of it all and inject an air bubble into their bloodstream. That'll kill you in about thirty seconds flat and it leaves very little evidence. The horror stories doctors have to tell about patient suicides, well, it gives a professional assassin an inferiority complex.

Why didn't I come up with that?

This Skakdi comes up to me with this mad grin, flashing me teeth the size of piano keys with that same dim ivory piano color to boot. He knows, and I know, that he's about to make history. Nothing of this magnitude, this sheer idiocy, has ever been attempted by a rational doctor.

Of course, he knows, and I know, that he is anything but a rational doctor. This is Ilya Drayzen, Skakdi mad scientist, ex-paramilitary operative, and all around madman. Everyone who's anyone who has access to the Mata Nui criminal underground has heard of this nutcase. Thing is, he's supposed to be dead.

Some patients, they get really tired of their suffering and mix together Viper's Breath and Bula berries. If you asked anyone but the most learned botanists, they'd tell you that this was no big deal, but the experts would quickly get this shocked look in their eyes and babble on about how the compounds that make up the sweet-smelling Viper's Breath herb activate a hidden toxin in the Bula berry and trigger anaphylactic shock. It kills in a minute, too.

How do I know this? Because I'm one of the best assassins in the world, and if I don't keep up to date on these things, I'll get caught. Amateurs get caught.

I'm no amateur.

*****

The really hardcore patients, the ones who are tired of spending each day waiting around for their souls to evacuate their bodies, they cut the left brachial artery and laugh as the life-sustaining blood of their bodies sprays across the room. You ever seen a really rotten, diseased berry just sitting there, its juice lying around in a puddle around its deflated, sad corpse?Picture that berry smiling defiantly, as doctors and nurses scream and run in circles and beg for help while coated in juice. Substitute berry for "dying patient" and juice for "really, really nasty, acidic blood" and you've got an idea of another one of my murder scenes.This is how I spend my time. Instead of gossiping around the newest, hottest Kohlii techniques or spending my days catching waves on the Ga-Wahi sands, I sit around in one of my various houses and toss a pen into the air, stopping every now and then to sketch out a stick figure of me and a stick figure of a victim, and then I'll start the cycle all over again.There are two kinds of people in the world, my father used to say, who sit around all day and wonder how they can best kill people. One kind is comprised of psychopaths. The other?This is the part of the joke where he would begin to laugh, slowly at first, before bursting into a guffaw. After a minute, his lungs would circulate enough air and spray enough saliva that he could choke out an answer.The other kind of killer, he would wheeze, is a mother-in-law.Cue the laughs. Cue applause. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.But I digress. Ilya Drazen is prepping this huge needle, flicking it, making sure all the air bubbles are safely exiled from the syringe, and he turns to me with that piano-sized grin and winks."You ready?"Stab me, already.He shrugs and stabs the hypodermic needle into my chest, pushing down on the syringe."Ten minutes on the clock. Begin countdown."Suddenly, I begin to feel like Drazen just cut my left brachial artery: my hearing starts to deaden, my blood starts to cool and slow, and my brain begins to lose vital oxygen as the compound lowers my blood temperature.And then, for the second time in as many days, I'm dead. And yet still, my brain is whirring at maximum speed, cycling through memories in a rapid, synchronized fashion. Scenes and blips from my past begin to whir through in flashes, and I close my eyes...

******

Ta-Koro Hospital of the Guard, Ta-Koro

Two years ago...

"Are you here to kill me?"

I shrug, pushing my doctor's coat to the floor; disguising myself is pointless at this point. To his credit, the man in the bed doesn't scream.

It's okay if you want a minute, I offer helpfully. He smirks.

"That's very generous of you."

What can I say? Dead people bring out the humanitarian in me.

The man in the bed before me is nameless, faceless, another ghost in a ghost town. The less I know about him, the better I can do my job. The better I can do my job, the better chance I have of getting paid and living. What I do know, however, is that he is very, very rich, and if I do this job right, I will be, too.

The guy is the son of the creator of Mandala's Magic Bula Juice, one of the top three selling brands on the island of Mata Nui. The guy eats, breaths, and sleeps widgets, and his son was no different.

Well, he wasn't, until he "fell ill" at a meeting with my employer. After a couple weeks of waiting around, my employers had decided that the problem needed a...firmer grip. So he came to me. Ironic. Bula juice, one of the primary givers of life and energy on this island, is about to lead to so much bloodshed. Poetic, really. It could be in a book.

Note to self: use money from this job to write a book.

Twenty seconds have gone by. The man's still zoned out, staring into the space between my elbow and my rib cage as I stand, relaxed and ready. On one of my past jobs, my boss, a real piece of work, this guy, he tells me that I remind him of a cat. He said I was feline, psychopathic, a touch feminine, really. He said it was an endearing quality.

Two days later, my employer found himself lying face down in the bottom of the Naho Bay with a cat's face carved into his chest and the word "MEOW" scrawled in his own blood across his back. Fricking shame, really. I dated his girlfriend for a while afterwards.

Forty seconds have gone by. The man sighs and throws up his hands.

"You want to kill me? Go ahead. It won't do you any good. My fortune is protected in ways you can't imagine..."

Enlighten me, then. I'm all ears. The longer you talk, the longer you live. If you're a good boy, pray real hard, and eat all your vegetables, then I'll withdraw all the water from your blood and give you a nice good slice with a knife. You'll bleed out in a couple seconds and feel little to no pain.

His eyes close, but not in fear, not in pain. More of...acceptance.

"Have fun searching."

He withdraws a flask of Mandala's Magic Bula Juice and mixes it with Viper's Breath as I stare, slightly bored. I can't help but check out the window. Sun's almost setting. I wanted to catch a play in Le-Koro tonight, so if this guy would just finish up with the suicide thing I could be out of here...

With a crow of triumph, he finishes shaking the flask and takes a sip. His eyes widen and he tries to spit it out, but it's too late: his mouth is too dried to produce any saliva, and I begin to laugh.

Looking for this?

My cold blue eyes dance as I withdraw the pouch of Viper's Breath from my pocket. I pull another, empty pouch labeled "MF" from my pocket and toss it onto the bed.

*****

Any good botanist will tell you that Makuta Fern poisoning is not one of the top ten ways to die. The fern is found only in the darkest sections of the Le-Wahi jungle, far from any prying adventurers or foolish fans of the occult who would use them for their odd, selfish purposes. The plant, when undiluted, kills within hours. When diluted, however, those afflicted can survive for up to a week, suffering physically and mentally as they begin to lose control of their muscles and dreams.

Those who finally succumb to the poison will often be found in their beds, twisted into a backwards fetal position with their fingers outstretched and pointed towards the sky, their wrists wrung and purple from bruising, and their eyes wide and rolled into the back of their heads, forced to watch their final, worst nightmares on repeat until the moment of neurological collapse.

Pictures from anatomy books play their way through my head as I stare at the juice mogul's slowly widening eyes. I shrug, pick up the discarded lab coat, and throw it on with a smirk as I turn towards the door.

Sweet dreams, I think, and as I walk out into the hallway and walk towards the exit, I smirk a bit wider as I hear the first of his screams echo through the cold marble prison behind me.

*****

Review

-Teezy


Edited by Tyler Durden, May 18 2012 - 06:26 PM.

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#2 Offline Brooklyn Pace-Carlisle

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Posted May 11 2012 - 05:26 PM

Chapter 1: Of Oil and Ontological Shock, and Everything in Between

Mark Bearer's Clearing, Ga-Wahi

Three days ago...

In most modern philosophical texts, along with most dictionaries, the words "ontological shock" are often explained as such.Noun. Ontological shock. (uncountable)1. (philosophy) The state of being forced to question one's worldview.

2. (philosophy) When one is confronted by the ultimate and one's relationship to it; to realize one's calling.

Both of these definitions pretty much sum up how I feel right now, half bifurcated and bleeding and laying on the ground half-dead. Do I like the position I'm in right now? Not really. I've felt better, and as I watch semidetached (quite literally, in fact) I can see my life's blood and everything that helped empower it fading away and seeping into the cold Ga-Wahi marsh. This, more than almost anything, intrigues me, to watch my soul evacuate in liquid form through the grievous wound in my side.

Another thing that intrigues me is the almost-habitual disregard for dictionaries and philosophical texts. When you loan a friend a novel or a collection of poetry and recommend it, saying things like "this book changed my life" or "you'll never read anything like this from this genre ever again", you're pretty much subconsciously screaming at them to transfer it from your position to theirs. You don't have that problem with dictionaries and philosophical texts.

*****

Take this book. I never want to see it again.

I can feel Utu and Tank breathing heavily over me. The Mark Bearer of Fear is screaming to keep me alive, that he needs me, he needs all of us. Tank is on the ground, nodding in understanding, telling me to pull through, trying to stop any more blood from gushing out of me...

Just grab it off my bookshelf. I don't mind.

And my Mark of Rage begins to glow, even though nobody around me is really mad and everybody is busy focusing on keeping me alive. My eyes begin to swim with pictures and visions of the future, chief among them a beautiful, perfectly chiseled and well-dressed Toa of Iron with my Mark on his shoulder and my smirk on his face.

He's standing amongst the group currently assembled in the middle of a blizzard, to the left of Utu, and as I float effortlessly through the cold air, chilling me to the bone yet filling me with warmth the likes of which I've never felt, my vision zooms out and the group is gone. I'm staring at a long row of runes, and my Mark of Rage is sitting right beside those of Pain and Fear. Tank and Utu.

We're going to win. No matter what happens to me, we're going to take our hold over this island and we're going to crush it like a Madu.

Really. I promise.

On the bookshelf in each of my safe houses, the shelves are filled with philosophical texts and dictionaries and textbooks on anatomy. The kind of stuff you wouldn't give out at a family reunion. And then, as I balance myself out, my eyes and Mark glowing a beautiful cornflower blue, the Encyclopedia Doriana flips to the next entry.

*****

Safe House, Le-Koro

Six months ago...

"Oh, dear God!"

I guess.

"I heard things...terrible things..."

Oh, haven't we all.

This girl who is hugging me tightly and kissing me and dragging me to her bedroom is named Juliana Bok'an, Toa of Water, and she's kind of cute in the sense that a gazelle being hunted by a lion looks incredibly hot in the midday summer heat. She is - or was, until very, very recently - a secretary at one of the biggest corporations on Mata Nui, who are well-known for employing a sort of unknown Toa to help them develop their technology. Though initial intel was sketchy before today, my employers had reason to believe that the Toa were some sort of oil-wielders.

Well, they were right. Toa of Oil, the lot of 'em. Remarkably good at keeping the place clean, I must say. If even a spark went down anywhere in the testing facilities, where the most futuristic weapons most Mata Nuians had ever seen, if even a small light hit a drop of oil, the whole place would combust. The floors were remarkably not-slick for a place employing so much oil.

I had to grease up the floors with the blood and innards of every single factory worker. I left the janitor alive; the pay raise he's gonna demand for having to clean up that building is gonna be more than his life's worth. The death of one being, somewhere, insubstantial in the eyes of the world, always helps another being profit. Such is life. For the proper order of nature to be maintained, anarchy must

always

be a threat.

Checks and balances.

"At work...I was so worried about you...they said everyone was dead..."

You don't say.

She must have noticed the apathy I felt about all of this, and she probably assumes I'm hurt, because she removes my shirt and lays her hand on my bare abdomen and asks me that question that every good girlfriend does when she's worried about her male counterpart.

"You're okay, right? They didn't hurt you, did they?"

What makes you so sure it was a they?

All of a sudden, I'm a bit curious. If she knows something - something that could hurt these guys, maybe get me an extra couple g's - then I need to get it out of her. For a second, I consider torturing her a bit. I have this cool new trick with a Makuta Fern I've been meaning to try out...

She looks around, as though frightened of the walls gossiping about what she's about to say, and then she leans in.

"The regional supervisor for the Corporation - here, in Le-Koro, he runs all of our ops around the Koro - he's got ties to Crimson Nova. Tight ones."

Oh. This is interesting. The Bounty Hunters Guild is involved with these guys. That's an extra what, ten, twenty g's that this girl just gave me?

Adjective. Giddy. Compare: giddier. Superlative: giddiness. See also, synonym: dizzy. See also, derived terms: giddiness. See also: vertiginous.

1. dizzy, feeling dizzy or unsteady as if about to fall down.

2. causing dizziness: causing dizziness or a feeling of unsteadiness.

3. lightheartedly silly, or joyfully elated.

I'll take Option Number 3 for a 50,000 widget bonus, Alex.

*****

In the meantime, though, I merely squeeze her tightly and fall onto the bed with her, kissing her, whispering in her ear that it's just a rumor, that what happened was merely a tragic example of corporate espionage gone wrong and that it's all behind her, it's all in the past, and both of us can go on living the rest of our lives never needing anything but each other...

Someday, I'll write a guidebook. Seduction for Dummies. It could sell millions. Not for the first time, the idea of writing a book enters my head. Maybe I could put it on my bookshelf, in between my book on advanced botany of Ga-Wahi and how to repair moderate to major physical injuries. I could put it in my Ko-Wahi house, where I have quite a collection of books on the occult and dark magic. Someday, they might come in handy.

One day, women will all become monsters. Juliana here is just an adolescent black widow, ready to tear off the head of the man to mate with her. And right now, that look in her eyes, I can see she wants that to be me.

See also: take caution. See also, synonym: watch your back. See also, derivative terms: mission accomplished.

I pull her into my lap and smile as the Encyclopedia Doriana closes shut, and in my mind's eye I can see the soft, wizened hand of my subconscious stroking the leather cover in that weird way all sages do when they're done reading their favorite book. The last thing I can see before my mind blinks out is the beautiful face of this secretary chick as she presses her eyelashes into mine, the cold, wet feel of her tear-stroked cheek pressing against my soft, dry jawbone, and as I watch the Encyclopedia that has become my life slides into the empty place in my psyche's bookshelf and nuzzles into its little nest, safe again from the forces that would do its pages harm.

For now.

See also: to be continued.

*****

Review

-Teezy


Edited by Tyler Durden, May 11 2012 - 05:31 PM.

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#3 Offline Brooklyn Pace-Carlisle

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Posted May 18 2012 - 08:26 PM

Chapter 2: The Father, The Son, The...

I suppose by now I should explain some things. My name is Dorian Shaddix. Until very recently, I was a Toa of Ice, a Mark Bearer of Rage, and one of the best assassins in the known universe. Then, a couple days ago, I was disemboweled and killed by some good-for-nothing Po-Koro Guard prick who thought he was doing the world a favor. Contrary to popular belief, though, I'm not really dead. My spirit moved onto a new body, a better looking one, some chiseled statue-esque Toa of Iron who could charm the devil himself into a kiss.My spirit, though, is one that would turn the devil away in fear and send him packing his bags for the nearest church. This sounds blasphemous to some of you, no doubt. I can almost hear someone calling me out on this presumptuous little statement now..."The devil is the perfect manifestation of evil! You can't be that bad! No one is!"To that brave soul, I say, come to my house some time. Spend the night.We'll see how it goes.Now, as for why I do what I do, that's a longer story.

******

Ko-Wahi

A lifetime ago...

Ko-Matoran.

The very name of the species brings about vicious stereotypes of philosophizing, overbearing, strong and silent types that have nothing more to do with their lives than stand around guarding icicles all day. Now, am I prone to bouts of philosophizing? Of course? Am I strong and silent? Of course. Am I overbearing? Mneh. Maybe. Anyone I've ever asked ended up dead before they gave an answer. Do I have a purpose in my life?

Well, for a long time, I didn't.

One thing they won't tell you about Ko-Matoran is that we are, by nature, a melancholy, creative sort of being. The bleak, cold landscape of Ko-Wahi is a writer's paradise, and the dark horizon bleeding white dots where stars have punctured their way through the night sky, shining and illuminating the lives of those who truly look up and try and capture the sheer wonder that sort of scene inspires.

I was always the kind of guy who loved capturing those scenes. I loved writing about them, drawing them (no matter what else I became later in life, I've always retained a skill at art) and singing about them. All that typical quixotic jazz, well, that was me. Hopelessly romantic to a fault, and a cock-eyed optimist to boot. Exactly the kind of guy who people love to torture.

We chased the horizon down till it hung beneath our feet

I was walking through the village, singing something about constellations and shining or something, when I got that typical chill you get down the back of your spine when something was about to go wrong. You might think this was the cold: nope. Ko-Matoran don't get chilly. Physically, anyway. Mentally, we never let our cold and icy demeanor drop long enough to try and see rational sense, even when we know we're not glimpsing it correctly. We refuse to relax, but we refuse to get angry. We refuse to have fun, but we refuse to work all the time.

We refuse to love, and, well, that's the greatest tragedy of them all.

Now I'm drifting blind, and all I know is we can't move closer

"Dorian!"

Out of impulse, I turn a bit, and I catch her eye, and I smile a bit nervously, partly because this chill is really starting to creep me out and partially because of the fact that I'm really, really in love with this girl, and I can't help but try and warn her away with my eyes.

Don't look now.

I'm being followed.

Act normal.

She must have caught some glimpse of what's going on inside my head, because she slows her pace until she's right alongside me and she wraps her arm around me, muttering something about needing to keep warm. It's a record low here in Ko-Koro.

Somehow, I get the feeling that's just another excuse. It's never that cold here.

And I've never seen the lights of the north

I smirk a bit in that cocky way we Ko-Matoran get when things start going as planned and I make some joke about blizzards. She smiles and laughs, and the infectious warmth of the sound plus her body heat helps put me at ease a bit. She leans in and kisses me on the cheek a bit, suddenly and unexpectedly, and I open my mouth to ask what exactly that was all about when a disk collides with the back of my head. I have just enough time to taste blood - lots of it, too, a nice, clean hit - before I slam my face into the ground and feel the fluffy, wet snow blanket my face like a subzero cloud.

*****

Wait, you may say.

Did you say you died?

Why, yes, reader, I did. A bit of a delayed reaction, but as they say, better late than never. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but we'll get to that later. Yes, I was, in fact, killed several days ago, a Rahkshi's Staff of Absorption straight to the heart. Things like that happen, of course; I have no one to blame but myself for being careless and fighting with no regard for my injuries, which were already too grievous to bother fighting with.

Not to mention, heII hath no fury like a boy toy scorned.

This particular boy toy's name was Tillian Juturna, and a right nasty one he is. Handsome kid, about yay high, Po-Koro Guard commander, surf rat, madly in love with this Mark Bearer girl who's too blinded by her own love to see that she's dating a bloody nutjob. That kind of deal. Anyway, this kid, he swoops out of nowhere and starts engaging me in one-on-one combat. He's good - I could have destroyed him at full power, but alas - too good, and I catch a spear to the heartlight and blank out. This reminds me of a conversation I once had with an assassin buddy of mine.

"Hey, Shaddix," this guy says to me after a job one time, when we're sharing cigarettes and a shot. "What do you think happens when we die?"

What do you mean?

"Well, you know. We could die at any time in our business. What do you think it feels like? What do you see, what do you hear?"

I dunno, man. Not really willing to find out.

"I wonder if it's just like a cut to black. You hear nothing, you see nothing. Just sudden emptiness."

Six months later, I cut the guy's throat after a job gone wrong. I forgot to ask him what he felt.

Death, I learned, isn't fun. It's cold and it's empty and you can't even look down and see yourself, you're so transparent. You're more see-through than the worst lie, the brightest white, the clearest glass. It's odd, especially having made your whole life's living based on getting close to people with your looks.

It was then and there that I decided that I will never die again.

*****

Ko-Wahi

A lifetime ago...

Is this the edge of the world?

This girl and I are beside each other, chained to a table, and there's a man standing above us that's dark and handsome and he's got this look in his eyes like he's not sure whether to hug us or ingest our internal organs. He has that lovingly sociopathic look about him, like a Turaga who bought all his citizens coal for Naming Day and deposited it in all the stockings, then took to the streets to burn all the real presents.

He flicks a surgical knife across my abdomen lazily, drawing a speck of blood from the tightened muscle underneath. He smiles in success, like a predator who just managed to corner his prized meal, and he moves in lazily, stroking my forehead. After doing the same to my companion, he nods, satisfied, and takes out two Toa stones, pressing one into the palms of both our right hands. He injects a sedative into our forearms, and we fade out again...

When we wake up, we're in the middle of Ko-Wahi, all shiny and heroic-looking and full on Toa.

That was the day my life began. And though my beautifully unfettered mind didn't know it just yet, it was also the day it ended.

*****

Review


Edited by Tyler Durden, May 18 2012 - 08:27 PM.

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