The month is half over and I'm already at 30k words. Going well so far this year. Typically I get a little behind.
Story after the break.
Charles answered the door on the third knock. When he opened the door, there was a man and a woman standing there. They both wore suits, and the man had a box stuffed with odd things in his arms. They both looked serious, but not threatening.
“Charles Masterson?” The woman asked. He nodded. She flashed a badge. “We're with the police. I'm Detective Yates, this is Detective Mohan. We're here about the recent disturbance at the University. May we come in?”
“Oh, um, sure.” Charles stepped aside, letting the two in. “My mother is out right now but I can make some coffee if you want a cup.”
“That won't be necessary, Mister Masterson,” Yates said. “We just need to ask you a few questions about what happened. Some of the witnesses we have at the scene reported that you and Professor Gabel were close.”
“He was one of my favorite teachers,” Charles said. “I'd like to think he thought well of me, too.” Yates noted something down in her notebook.
“Professor Gable was killed in the recent accident,” Yates noted, watching Charles' reaction. He looked down. Hearing it made him feel weak and alone. “We recovered some personal effects from the scene and the college dean suggested giving them to you.”
“Here,” Mohan said, handing Charles the box. Charles took the heavy box and carefully put it on a table. He'd look through it later. Mohan coughed. “Do you know anything about what happened, Charles?”
“I was there,” Charles admitted. He wasn't going to lie to the police. “It was some kind of explosion. It was confusing, and frightening. I got out of there as soon as I could.”
“Do you know what caused the explosion?” Mohan asked. Yates was writing more in her notebook. Charles hoped it wasn't a note to arrest him.
“It-” Charles stopped. “If I tell you, you'll think I'm lying or crazy.”
“I just want to know what you saw, Charlie,” Mohan assured him, putting a hand on the younger man's shoulder. “Whatever you say, I'll listen.”
“Well...” Charles sighed. “It was some kind of monster. It was like a bat. It attacked Gable's lab while he and I were working on something. Gable protected me. I barely got out.” Charles sat down heavily in a chair at the memory. “I didn't see what happened after that.”
“I see,” Yates said. “Did the monster look like this?” She flipped back a few pages and showed Charles a sketch. A birdlike helmet.
“No.” Charles shook his head. “Like I said, it was like a bat.”
“I see.” Yates put her notebook away. “Do you remember anything else about the accident?”
“I- no.” Charles sighed. “I just wish it hadn't happened.”
Tilda tried not to think too hard about her morning as she rode to work. She had woken up with head on entirely the wrong kind of pillows and she was going to be spending all day getting that image out of her head. Arma was way too comfortable as a houseguest.
As she got to the butcher's shop, Heinrich walked out, frowning. She shrank from his gaze a little. She had missed work entirely because of this mess with the Verbesserte. And he was hard on her just for being on time. She could already see him firing her.
“Where have you been?!” Heinrich yelled, walking over.
“It's, um, I-” Tilda stuttered. Heinrich reached her and pulled her into a hug.
“I was so worried about you! You vanish with no warning after big accident with many people hurt! I thought you had been killed! You have never missed work before! I spent all day thinking you were hurt!”
“I'm sorry, Mister Heinrich,” Tilda muttered. He pulled away and looked at her bandaged arms.
“Look at this! You are hurt! You should have said something. I would give you day off if you were hurt. You go inside and sit. You can work the counter today. I will cut.”
“Really, Mister Heinrich, it's not that bad. I'll be fine.”
“Do not argue,” Heinrich said, waving a finger. “I know what I am doing.” He waved her inside.
“Thanks, Mister Heinrich,” Tilda said, smiling. She walked inside and put on an apron before going out to the counter. Maybe things would actually get back to normal.
Charles sat in his room, looking through the box that the police had brought over. It was mostly junk, bits and pieces of unfinished Orgone devices. A miniature cloudburster that was supposed to act as an umbrella but had never worked. A copper pyramid with orgonite corners, supposed to keep food fresh. Charles put them somewhere safe. He'd treasure them, even if they were just scraps.
The one item of real interest was a book. It was a journal, apparently a personal diary and design journal for Pax. He wondered if the police had bothered looking through it. He sat back on his bed and paged through the tome. He could almost hear Gable reading it to him.
“Krieg is a marvel of its age, or of any age. It uses techniques and materials that were never recorded or recognized by any scientific journal. When I studied it, before the Collapse, I knew I was looking at the true future of warfare, something arriving a hundred years before its time. It shouldn't have been surprising that the Nazis managed it. They had always been a few steps ahead of everyone else.
“The trouble with Krieg, though, was the same problem we were discovering with the most dangerous weapon of our age. Nuclear weapons should have created peace. They should have made people too afraid to ever wage war. But instead, it just lead to proliferation of the deadly devices, and then, on that terrible day, they were used.
“If Krieg were to be mass-produced, every soldier would have the power of a tank, or a fighter jet, or worse. And every nation would have to rush to make their own. The proliferation of Krieg would have far more long-lasting effects than even nuclear war. Krieg's power source and principal operating force is deadly orgone radiation, which it produces in vast quantities. Any human using the device would quickly succumb to its effects.
“The effects of deadly orgone radiation are widespread and terrible. The small amounts produced through natural processes cause desertification, droughts, and some sicknesses. While dangerous, this energy can easily be handled with the use of cloudbursters and burying orgonite in areas that permanently leak deadly orgone radiation.
“However, the radiation created by Krieg is not natural. It irritates and stagnates flows of orgone from the atmosphere. In the tests we've preformed with Krieg, anyone exposed to the radiation first feels positive, with an initial upturn that gives the exposed more energy. However, this also comes with personality changes, the exposed becoming hectic and angry. They lash out at any source they can.
“After this phase, the affected become despondent, burned-out. With long-term exposure, people are driven insane and become ill. Cancers and immune system failure are almost certain in most cases. The deadly orgone radiation simply can't be processed correctly by the human body, and it stays stagnant inside, eating a person up from within.
“If Krieg was mass produced, the deadly orgone radiation it produces would cause massive environmental and spiritual damage. It's likely that any area where Krieg was used in open warfare would become a desert. And unlike nuclear weapons, there is no deterrent factor. From the perspective of the people who make decisions on these things, Krieg is just another plane or boat. They don't understand the dangers involved.
“Thankfully, after the Collapse, Krieg was lost. Perhaps forever. The site it was housed was the first target in the nuclear barrage. It's up for debate who fired that shot, but perhaps it was for the best. Despite the lives lost, it may have saved the future of humanity.”
Arma tore into the raw meat with her teeth. She had found some butcher's scraps in Tilda's fridge. She smiled as she picked another strip of beef out of the package and delicately ate it, juices dripping down her chin. She wiped her lips with a napkin and looked out over the city. The roof of the guest house had a decent view of the sad little town.
“You know, using Krieg is almost cheating,” Messer said, as he sat down next to Arma.
“I'm simply taking advantage of something I found,” Arma said. She smirked. “Besides, any of us would have done the same.”
“Maybe,” Messer said, nodding. “It was definitely a windfall for you.” He looked over the city. “I'm going to make my move soon. I came here to make you an offer.”
“Oh?” Arma raised an eyebrow. She put the meat away so she could focus on Messer.
“I think we should work together. Our goals really aren't that different.” Messer took off his sunglasses. “You're naïve about working with them as equals.”
“And you underestimate them.”
“Maybe,” Messer shrugged. “But you've seen this city. This is the best they can do by themselves. If we treat them as equals, they'll drag us down. We're already in enough trouble back home. If we sink too many resources into bringing them up to our level...” He shook his head.
“If we don't, we're just going to end up with another disaster. It'll just end in another slave revolt. They were getting worse and worse all throughout history. If we make them part of the plan, they'll help us instead of working against us.”
“It's a nice theory,” Messer agreed. “But all we really need is to be more careful than our predecessors. Don't be soft.”
“Well then we'll have to agree to disagree.”
Messer sighed. “I suppose. I'll try to avoid killing you. I can't say the same for your pet.”
Tilda leaned on the case. No one was coming in today. Everyone was staying inside after the attacks from the Verbesserte. There had only been a few customers, all of them regulars who lived nearby. For the last two hours, no one had walked in the door at all.
She was starting to fall asleep when the bell over the door rang. She blinked the sleep out of her eyes and looked up.
“Charles!” She said, happily. “I was afraid that, after what happened in the university...” She trailed off, looking at him. “Are you okay?”
“I...” he sighed. “I'm okay.” Charles forced a smile. “One of my professors died.”
“I'm so sorry,” Tilda said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Nah,” Charles said. “I just need some time. He was a good man.”
“Oh, um...” Tilda looked around. “I guess you came here for a reason. What can I get you?”
“Actually, I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Charles said. “I had a bad feeling about everything going on and I knew you worked here...” He coughed. “Anyway, um, I'm glad you're okay.” He stopped and looked at the bandages on her arms. Tilda held her arms up.
“It's nothing big.” She assured him. “Just a scratch. It'll heal in a few days.” She lowered her arms, self-consciously tugging at the bandages.
“Look, I know this isn't the best time,” Charles said. “But we really need to talk. I know we kind of lost touch after you had to leave school, but I want to change that.”