In today's episode of NNWM, I still don't have a title.
Story after the break!
“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.” Tilda blushed.
“W-well, I wouldn't mind that,” Tilda said. She smiled. “I've kind of missed seeing you around. Outside of work, I mean.”
“Great!” Charles smiled back at her. “How about tomorrow after work? We can go and get something to eat, if, um, that's okay with you.”
“It'd be nice to not have to cook for once,” Tilda sighed. “Okay. We'll meet then.” Charles nodded. He smiled and took his leave. Tilda sighed as he left, leaning on the case. Finally, something to get her mind off of all the trouble that was going on.
“He knows something,” Yates said. She looked over at Mohan. They had left the car back at the precinct and had been tailing Charles on foot. It was a lot less conspicuous than one of the only motor vehicles in town.
“Of course he does,” Mohan shrugged, lighting a cigarette. “He even admitted to being right there. I didn't see him at all.” He took a long drag on it as the two leaned on a building down the block from the butcher's shop.
“I don't like him as the perp, though,” Yates muttered. “I've never seen anyone so straight-laced. No one had anything bad to say about him except that he humored Gable too much.”
“Yeah,” Mohan said. He looked at Yates. “You seemed to know the Professor. I keep forgetting to ask you about that.”
“Oh. Him.” She rolled her eyes. “I've had to bring him in more than once. The man always marched to the beat of a different drum. He never meant much harm but... Well, a few times we had to talk to him about some of his strange habits. He'd pound pipes into the ground around monuments and public works projects. Once he damn near killed himself doing that when he hit a buried power line.”
“That's not too bad,” Mohan shrugged. “Harmless, at least.”
“Yeah. But he also experimented with a lot of drugs. Once, he ended up running through the middle of town, completely naked, and insisting that he could see things that the rest of us couldn't. I'm not sure what kind of drugs he was on.”
“Obviously the good kind,” Mohan joked. “Anyway, even if he isn't the perp, we can at least learn something by following him. The investigators I brought in are going over the scene in detail. They're damn good people, trust me. If there's anything to find they'll tell us.”
“They'd better find something,” Yates sighed. “I can't believe my people couldn't find anything. Whoever did this must have been a real pro. It had to be an attack on the Professor.”
“Makes me wonder who he pissed off,” Mohan said.
Tilda smiled and hummed as she walked in the door, and was greeted with the sounds and smells of someone cooking. She took her shoes off and walked into the kitchen. As predicted, Arma was making food. She turned to look at Tilda.
“You're back!” Arma smiled and walked over, hugging Tilda and kissing her on the cheek. Tilda blinked at that. Once again, she was left without a clue on the appropriate response.
“Y-yeah.” Tilda blushed. “What are you cooking?” She pulled away from the reptilian. “It smells good.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. There was something oddly electric about proximity to the alien. She wondered if it was the energized orgone the alien had mentioned. It did feel a little like when she was wearing Krieg.
“Well, your refrigerator was badly understocked, so I had to make do. But I thought after your victories, you really deserved something good for dinner. I got some meat and made a roast. I used the last of your vegetables, so you'll need to buy more.”
“You got meat?” Tilda frowned. “I didn't see you at the butchers.” And it didn't smell like beef, or really like chicken either.
“Oh, I didn't buy it.” Arma waved a hand dismissively. “I decided to get it the old-fashioned way. I hunted down the rabbits myself. It was a fun afternoon.” She skipped back to where she was cooking and took a lid off the pot. Tilda could see the skinned hindquarters of a rabbit cooking there.
“I see.” Tilda blinked, considered for a moment, then shrugged. “Well, I haven't had rabbit in a while, and I guess that's as fresh as it can be.”
“And I think you'll like what I'm cooking up for you,” Arma said, smiling broadly. “I thought we should have a heart-to-heart today. There's something I've wanted to talk to you about for a while now. I should have brought it up right away, but I guess I got distracted with Krieg and all the fighting we've been doing.”
“Really?” Tilda raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Oh, it's... um...” Arma paused. “Well, I'll tell you over dinner. There's just kind of a ritual for this arrangement between us. It's simple, really, though sometimes people really dress it up.”
“A ritual,” Tilda said, skeptical. “Is this going to include, like, human sacrifice or something? Because even if I do butcher cattle, I don't want to go and do the same to anyone. Especially if it's someone I know.”
“No, no!” Arma laughed. “It's just a ceremony between the two of us. I'll explain later. For now, you should go and get cleaned up before dinner. I don't mind the blood-splattered look, but I'm sure you'd prefer to get into something clean.”
“Yeah,” Tilda agreed, with a nod. “Whatever the ceremony is, we'll do it after dinner, as long as it's nothing, like, strange.” She shrugged.
“Don't worry.” Arma smiled and stirred the pot. “It's just a little thing.”
It was cold. So cold. Donna had been forced out onto the streets a week ago, after she had finally made her landlord angry enough to actually carry through on his threats. She had been sleeping on a park bench since then, until one of the local cops had tried to arrest her. Donna had almost let him do it, just to spend a night in a cell somewhere warm. Her pride, what little of it was left, wouldn't let her do that.
It also wouldn't let her beg for food like a dog, or eat garbage. She was so hungry. One of the local churches had a soup kitchen, but it had closed for the day already. It was keeping her alive with one decent meal a day, but it wasn't enough, especially with the winter. Donna had been reduced to staying in an alleyway between two buildings, sleeping under an overhang that kept most of the water away from her and wrapping herself in newspapers to stay warm.
She didn't even notice the man coming until he stopped to kneel down in front of her. She cowered in fear, covering her face. The last time someone had bothered her, they had kicked her and almost raped her until her screaming attracted enough attention to make him run off.
“P-please,” she whispered. “I don't have anything. J-just go away.”
“I know you don't have anything,” the man said. He smiled slightly. The sunglasses he wore made his expression hard to read, especially at night. There was something very dangerous about him, though. Donna wasn't sure what was going to happen.
“T-then what do you want?” Donna whispered, afraid. The man stroked her head. She jerked away from him.
“I want to help you,” the man said. He looked around. “You look like someone who needs a second chance. You're still in the prime of your life.”
“What?” Donna asked, confused. “Mister, I don't know what you want. Just don't hurt me.” She shivered, pulling the newspapers close with a crinkle.
“I'm not going to hurt you,” the man assured her. “Like I said, you look like you need a second chance. I want to give you some help, make sure you have something to eat. I guess you could say I'm something of a philanthropist.”
“I don't...” Donna bit her lip. She wasn't sure she had anything to lose now. “I don't know. I just... please... what's the catch?”
“There are two conditions,” the man said. “The first is that you have to do a little job for me. After that, you'll pretty much be free to do what you want. It's a simple thing. Once we get you cleaned up, it'll be the easiest thing in the world. You'll even have fun doing it.”
“I won't-” Donna stumbled over her words. “I won't sell myself. I'm not that kind of girl.”
“I wouldn't ask you to. Don't worry. It's not that kind of job. Now the other condition...” the man smirked. “Well, it's just a little thing. We just have to make this arrangement formal.” He reached into his jacket and took out a small box. Donna watched, confused.
“What is that-” her question was cut off as he opened the box, revealing a golden ring. On close inspection, it was shaped like a snake eating its own tail. It seemed to glow with some kind of internal light.
“This is the second condition. You have to say 'I do.'”
Charles paged through Gable's book as he relaxed. It had been a good day. After the mess he had gone through with Krieg, having a more relaxing day was nice. And better, he had actually gotten the guts to ask Tilda out, and she had said yes! He could figure out what to do about Krieg later. There were more important things to worry about for now.
“Where Krieg's is ultimately the expression of mankind's ability to make war,” Charles read. “It cannot be allowed to represent our future. It is something that can only destroy. The paradigms of war, especially those set down by the most evil human regime the world has ever seen, are simply not something we can afford to propagate into the future.
“What mankind needs now is something better. There are technologies that can be used to make war on war itself. Weapons of peace. If the machines of death that make up Krieg are replaced with these weapons of peace, we can make an improved version of the device, one that is designed to save people instead of simply destroying them.
“I have been putting together a copy of Krieg from memory, though with the changes I've made, especially to the reification matrix, will grant it abilities that make it much more useful to mankind. I think that the only appropriate name I can give this device is Pax. It represents more than just peace and stability, but a type of harmony that no other device could broker.
“The only problem I am having with the device is finding an appropriate power supply. Krieg's power source was and still is far ahead of any other such miniaturized generators, even today. The reactor built into the device seems to use some sort of artificially created element to generate deadly orgone radiation with radioactive decay.”
Charles started to turn the page when his house shook, and a loud crashing sound echoed through his home. He blinked, confused, and sat up. He walked over to the window to look and saw nothing out of the ordinary.
“Mom?” Charles asked, walking out of his room. “Did you feel that?” He walked downstairs to a scene of destruction. His heart jumped in his chest. One of the windows was shattered from outside, and a crack ran down the wall. A roar sounded from outside, like tearing metal and hate.