IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE ALTERNATE FUTURE, THERE IS ONLY KRIEG. AND ALSO PAX.
We're at 40k total words, in case you couldn't guess.
Arma was far behind Tilda. She couldn't fly with the speed of a jet fighter, after all. She ran down the streets, using her perfect sense of direction to keep track of where Tilda was through their bond. She took every fork in the path in an instant, with no hesitation at all. She was letting her training and Anunnaki powers run at full power. She could make correct decisions in an instant, something a human's gut instinct could only play at.
She could hear the sounds of combat. Tilda must have found the enemy already. She felt a pang of worry. She hadn't had a chance to give Tilda any real advice on this battle. And knowing that this was going to be one of Messer's creations, she could guess that it was going to be intensely powerful. Arma needed to get there, as soon as possible.
The flows of orgone became twisted and strange as she closed on the battlefield. The air was saturated with energized orgone, but it was running like a cyclone instead of hanging suspended as a fog. Something was aggravating it. And Arma could only imagine one thing it could be.
“Pax,” She muttered, as she found herself on the field of battle. The white-armored warrior was standing, his guard down, in front of the Verbesserte. The idiot. Well, with that kind of strategy he wouldn't be a problem for long.
Then she spotted Tilda, crumpled on the street, unmoving. Her hearts leaped. She ran over, trying to keep near walls to avoid being noticed, and made her way to her partner. Krieg's armor was still up, and it was still putting out energized orgone. Tilda had to still be alive, and the weapon might have been the only thing keeping her that way.
Arma knelt down next to her, looking her over. The armor was cracked and broken. The helmet had a crack in it so wide she could see Tilda's eye. Arma gasped in horror. This was worse than she had expected. She reached down to the weapon for a moment, then pulled her hand away. If she turned it off now she could treat her wounds, but... she might kill her if the armor was the only thing holding her together.
She bit her lip. She left the armor on. It felt like the correct decision. She could tell Tilda was alive, and she had to keep her that way. She put her hands on Tilda's chest. She focused her own flow of orgone, trying to push more of it into the woman's body.
Just for a moment, she considered turning Tilda into a Verbesserte. There was still time to do it, and it would certainly save her. But... she stopped. Tilda hadn't wanted to become enhanced. Arma wasn't sure if she'd let her go through it even if she had wanted it. The process could warp a human's mind. She looked at the shark thing circling Pax, who was trying to reason with it.
“Please wake up...” Arma whispered.
Donna's head hurt. Her teeth hurt. Her stomach hurt worse than anything else, though. She was so hungry. Everything looked like food now. She wanted to eat, and didn't even care what it was that was filling her belly. She tried to tell the man talking to her, but all that came out of her mouth was the roaring of her empty gut.
He just kept saying words. She couldn't hear them. She was too hungry for words to make sense. She wanted to make him stop. Trying to listen just made her feel famished. Donna's arms felt like bee hives, buzzing with activity. She lifted her hands... she didn't have hands anymore. They were gone now. The angry bees swarmed from her arms, searching the street for threats and stinging them, flying at them and exploding.
The man in white screamed something and ran at her. She wanted to yell at him and tell him to stop. Part of her still knew he was a man who had been trying to help her, but the rest only saw him as meat. Meat that wasn't even fighting back.
He shook her shoulders. She felt it all the way in her guts, what little she had eaten rattling around and only reminding her how much more room there was to fill. She wanted to cry, but something was wrong with her eyes and the tears just wouldn't come. She moaned and opened her jaws wide. She had to eat. She couldn't hold back now.
“You've got to snap out of it!” Charles screamed, shaking the woman by her shoulders. “You changed back before! You can do it again!” The monster let out a terrible wail and lunged, biting down on his left shoulder. Charles screamed again, in an entirely different way.
It felt like his shoulder was in a vice. And someone had attached fangs to the vice. And the fangs were pushing their way through the tough armor, slowly but surely. Blood started running down his arm. He punched the shark, hitting it in the nose. The monster let go, the remains of the cape getting caught in its teeth and tearing away.
Charles took a few steps back, gasping and almost fainting from pain and shock. Everything seemed to swim in his vision now. He stumbled a few steps more before collapsing to one knee. He had never experienced pain like this. It was paralyzing and cold, and it took everything he had just to keep from passing out.
“Please, I just...” Charles gasped. “I just wanted to help you!” He couldn't move his left arm at all. His fingers twitched. Even the slightest motion sent electric shocks of agony through his body. He could tell the orgone output from Pax was helping him keep it together. The pain was already starting to fade to a burning throb.
“You idiot!” someone yelled. Charles looked back to see a reptilian woman cradling Krieg in her arms. “You can't reason with it! It's totally lost in the power! It can't even understand what you're saying now!”
“That's not true!” Charles said. He struggled and got his feet back under him. “She listened before! I got her to change back!”
“You-” The reptilian blinked and looked at the monster. “I admit that's pretty impressive. But you have to understand – it's not thinking like a person right now. It's thinking like an animal, in pain. You must have used body language or something before. Or maybe it just wasn't hungry.”
“What, you're just saying it was a fluke?” He was able to take a few steps, trying to keep his distance.
“No. But there was more to it than just words,” the reptilian corrected. “And right now that shark has had a taste of you. She can smell the blood in the water. If she isn't in a feeding frenzy, she will be soon.”
“Damnit...” Charles couldn't trust the reptilian, but had to admit what it was saying had a ring of truth to it. “I'm not going to kill her! Not for you! Not for anyone!”
“You're going to get killed, then!” The reptilian was holding Krieg like someone it really cared about. The person using it, whoever they were... must have been another reptilian. That was the only explanation there.
“No. I'm going to save everyone,” Charles said, to himself. He thought about what she had said, though. Treating it like an animal. He could do that. He was good with animals. He just had to stay calm, use the right body language, and use something to feed it and keep it distracted.
Something besides himself.
Tilda opened her eyes slowly. Everything was a blur. The display in her helmet was broken, but she could still see. Someone was holding her. Charles? Her vision focused.
“Arma?” She asked, weakly. The reptilian looked down.
“You're awake!” She smiled. “I was worried.”
“Is the Verbesserte...?”
“No. Not nearly,” Arma looked down the street. “Pax is just being annoying at it. At this rate, he's going to get eaten.” Tilda tried to sit up, her chest feeling like things were still burning and torn.
“Yeah, that figures.” As Tilda sat up, Arma gave her a hand getting to her feet. “That idiot. We're going to have to save him.”
“Are you sure you want to?” Arma asked. “He almost killed you once. If we let the Verbesserte take him out, we don't have to deal with him again.” Tilda frowned. She wished she hadn't felt a sudden urge of temptation to do just that.
“No. We're going to have to save his stupid feathered ass. He may be an idiot but...” She trailed off. Arma raised an eyebrow.
“You know who he is,” Arma said. “Well. I think you might even be sweet on him. How unbecoming of a newlywed!”
“Hey!” Tilda frowned. “That's-” Arma laughed and waved dismissively.
“We'll talk later. I think we've got more to worry about. I'm just glad you're okay.”
“Great. Now how do I beat this thing? Torpedoes don't work. I can't get in close to it. It can shoot me down if I'm flying.” She looked at Pax and the blood starting to stain his white armor. “And that thing can bite through damn near anything.”
“Not anything,” Arma said. “I bet it can't bite through tank armor.”
“Tank-” Tilda paused. “Another channel?” She looked down at the weapon around her waist. “I guess I need to change anyway. This armor is done.”
“It should have at least one more channel,” Arma said. “Go ahead and switch to that. Pax will keep the Verbesserte busy one way or another. You'll want to move quickly if you want to step in before he becomes brunch, though.”
Tilda spun Krieg's dial, searching for another station. She went almost to the end of the scale before she found it, a marching song. She couldn't place the composer. The broken armor glowed and dispersed, turning into energy and dust before it collapsed again into a new form. Tilda felt the sidewalk under her crack at her new weight.
“What the hell-” she said, as she felt herself bear its full weight for just a few moments. Then the strength of the armor caught up, and it was as light as a feather, but slow, every motion geared down to move the new, extremely thick armor covering her. A cannon hung from her right arm, underslung and massive. As the armor cooled, it turned a sand yellow.
“Like I said, a tank.” Arma looked. Tilda took a cautious step. It felt like she was on roller skates. She looked down. Treads. “If I had to take a guess, I'd say a Tiger, maybe a King Tiger. One of the most advanced and powerful tanks of its time, and without the material or supply problems. I'd like to see it bite through that.”
“I wouldn't,” Tilda said. “I'd really prefer if it failed to bite through it, in fact.” She flexed her fingers, her hands now covered in thick gauntlets that almost felt like crab claws or pincers. She smiled, feeling a little better. It'd do.
Charles looked back as he saw the blue light. Krieg was back on her feet and... in a suit of armor much more massive than any she had worn before. That reptilian woman was saying something to her. He turned back to the shark monster. He had to end this quickly before Krieg made things worse.
“Okay. Let's just stay calm,” Charles said, keeping his tone even. “We're all in this together.”