Another day, another two thousand words or so.
New bits of story after the break. Today, Sharks!
“Mom?” Charles asked, walking out of his room. “Did you feel that?” He walked to the stairs and looked downstairs into 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.
“Oh no...” Charles whispered. He could guess what that was. He ran back to his room and grabbed Pax before going down the stairs, strapping it to his waist while he took them two at a time. The house shook again, nearly tripping him as he got to the bottom.
He ran into the kitchen just as the outside wall was blown inwards. He watched in horror as a brick was propelled into the back of his mother's head as she ran from the blast. She went down like a ton of bricks as a literal ton of bricks fell around her. Charles ran over, screaming wordlessly.
Something horrible roared outside. Charles grabbed his mother, debris painfully bouncing from his shoulders. He grabbed her, shaking her.
“Mom!” He screamed. She was completely limp. Blood oozed through her hair. But she was breathing. He dragged her away from the broken wall, putting her down as far as he could from the danger. He wiped wetness from his eyes and stood to face the destroyed wall, looking outside.
There, the monster stood, distracted. It was distracted shoving debris into its mouth, a massive fang-filled maw. It was some sort of lithe shark-woman, but with a grossly distended jaw that could have torn a man in half. It was mostly wearing only thin plates of gray armor, but its lower arms were replaced with huge, slab-sided plates.
“You monsters...” Charles wiped another tear from his eyes. “You'll pay for this.” He put a hand on Pax. The proximity to the deadly orgone radiation being generated by the Verbesserte set Pax to humming. Blue motes, orbs of free orgone energy, floated around him.
He flipped the switch on the control box over his right hip. The pure orgone surged around him like snow caught in a zephyr. Flakes of it stuck on him, building up to become a white bodysuit, glowing with energy. He took a deep breath, and the orgone around him flexed and moved with his breath, drawing in and finishing the suit, plates of armor forming over the bodysuit into the birdlike shape of Pax. With a final surge of orgone, a cape sprouted from his shoulder.
“Before we start, I just want to say this,” Charles said. “I don't want to hurt you. But I am going to stop you.”
Yates had been watching Charles' house, and hadn't thought much when the dirty-looking woman came down the block. She had barely noticed her until she stopped in front of Charles' home and stumbled over to a cat. She scratched it behind the ears, then picked it up, opened her mouth wide, and-
Yates' eyes went wide. She shook Mohan's shoulder.
“What is it?” Mohan asked, yawning. He had been taking a short nap.
“That woman! She just-” She pointed. Mohan looked.
“Jesus Christ!” He was instantly awake. He grabbed for his gun. “Okay, we were waiting for something strange and I'm pretty sure that eating a goddamn cat counts.” Yates nodded, drawing her own sidearm. Just as she did, the woman across the street started glowing.
“Now what?” Yates asked. The woman fell to her knees in obvious pain, her body twisting and changing in an unhealthy pale light. Her mouth fell open, her teeth elongating into daggerlike fangs. Her skin became slick and metallic, her entire body warping into a mix of animal, machine, and man.
She stood on armored legs, a finned tail whipping behind her. The slabs of metal that had replaced her hands and lower arms swung through the air like they were weightless.
“A monster,” Mohan whispered. “Shit. We need to get everyone here. There's no way the two of us can take it out with just these.” He motioned with his gun.
“Yeah, but we can get these houses cleared.” Yates ran for Charles' house. “You evac the area! I'm going to try and get that kid out of here! This monster has got to be here for him!” She got to the house just as the monster bayed a terrible roar and raised its arms, shapes like darts launching along the flat surfaces to fly through the air.
The darts ducked and weaved like tiny birds before crashing into the house, exploding in a series of pops. Parts of the wall broke away, the windows shattering. Yates took cover behind a tree, then ran for the door. She had to get everyone out of there. She knocked on the door.
“Police! I'm coming in!” She kicked, popping the door's lock with a single well-placed kick. Really quite an easy thing to do. Yates ran inside, an eye towards where the she knew the monster was standing outside. Another shattering rumble sounded as the monster attacked again. She heard a scream. She ran towards it, into the kitchen, just as Charles activated Pax.
Yates knelt down by the prone form of Charles' mother, checking her pulse. Still alive. She watched in awe as Charles transformed into Pax. A feeling of peace washed over her, like a tide of positive emotions. For a few moments, she felt no fear or pain or anything at all except a perfect harmony.
Tilda smiled as she started in on dinner. She could say a lot of things about her alien guest, but it would be hard to say something negative about her cooking skills. Her spice cupboard certainly couldn't have produced these effects alone. Arma either knew what she was doing or she was cheating somehow. And with food like this, Tilda didn't care.
“What do you think?” Arma asked, smiling, as she watched Tilda eat. She hadn't touched her own plate yet, obviously waiting for Tilda's verdict. Tilda made a show of slowly chewing, visibly judging the food on every level, carefully keeping her face straight.
“Well, I suppose it's not bad,” Tilda said, with a shrug. “But I might need a few more bites to tell for sure. Could even take two or three servings.” Arma smiled and started eating.
“I'm glad you like it.” Arma had surprisingly good table manners for an alien shapeshifter. “I wasn't sure how human foods had changed since we had left. Your fads come and go so quickly.”
“So what is that ritual you were talking about before?” Tilda asked. She tried the vegetables Arma had made. They tasted like meat. She must have cooked them in the juices from the rabbit. They were good.
“Well...” Arma smiled. “Like I was saying, I want to formalize our arrangement. It would mean that we'd officially be together. Your accomplishments would count for me in the Grand Melee, and I'd be able to offer you more help and protection.”
“What kind of help and protection?”
“Truthfully, I've been helping you as much as I can anyway,” Arma said. “Because we have traditionally kept a low profile, most of the time all we can grant is information, and I've shared that freely because you deserve it. I think you'd be more interested in the protection, though.”
“Alright, go on.” Tilda kept eating. It sounded like Arma was making a business pitch to her.
“The thing is... the dwelling places of other Anunnaki are considered off-limits for attacks. We try not to kill each other during the Grand Melee.”
“No, just a bunch of us humans,” Tilda said, her tone dripping with sarcasm. “It's very noble, really. You only murder people who are different.”
“That's not fair. You know I haven't hurt anyone.” Arma frowned. “It's true the others aren't playing by my rules on that, but they do follow tradition. After the ritual, this will be considered my home as well, and you won't need to worry about the Verbesserte attacking here. It would be an unthinkable breach of conduct.”
“So if I don't go through with this thing, the monsters can just show up at my front door and kill me.” Tilda swallowed, her throat dry.
“Yes. And I'm certain my people know you live here. They've just been assuming that we've already made our arrangements, but if any of them actually bothers to check, they'll be here in a heartbeat. They are not afraid to attack someone when they're most vulnerable.”
Charles fired a blast from Pax's water cannon, the miniaturized cloudburster on his belt drawing in atmospheric moisture to fuel it. The monster, which had taken half a step into his kitchen, was forced back outside. He looked back towards his mother. Detective Yates was there, watching in shock. He felt suddenly guilty. He should have told the police everything.
“You need to get her out of here,” Charles said. “I'll keep this thing busy!” He drew the crystal hilt and activated the blade, orgone pouring from the suit and forging itself into a blade. Yates started dragging his mother away while he charged at the shark monster. It roared as he approached, and raised its arms.
Charles saw a fleet of darting shapes coming towards him, launching from the monster's arms. He turned, using his cape as a shield. The material was a tough weave of crystal fibres, metal threads, and an organic material like spider silk. The orgone-based explosives of the darts the Verbesserte fired blasted into the cape. Sparks showered down as it grounded the free energy. He winced, his already bruised shoulder taking a pounding from the shakes.
“Please just surrender!” Charles said, firing another shot from the water cannon. The monster was forced back another step, delaying its attack, overwhelmed as the pure water disrupted its flows of orgone. As it was reeling, Charles brought down his sword. As if he was seeing things in slow motion, two cylinders on the monster's shoulders turned, tracking his sword. Before it could reach the monster, there was a roar, and the blade was deflected as shots forced the blade away.
Charles blinked. Some kind of defensive system? The monster roared, recovering, and lunged at him with its huge fang-filled maw. He reacted on pure instinct, shoving his water cannon into its mouth. It bit down on the weapon. Charles pulled the trigger, blasting a stream of water down its throat.
The monster growled and bit down harder, crushing the housing of the water cannon. Water sprayed everywhere as valves ruptured, an explosive burst of liquid blasting everywhere as the monster's teeth came together only an inch from Charles' hand.
Charles hastily took a step back, not far enough to avoid the monster slamming one of its thick armored arms into him, spinning him around. He tripped over a brick, catching himself on part of the kitchen wall that was still standing. He panted with effort and dropped the broken water cannon, though there was little left of it but a handle.
“Okay,” Charles said, pulling himself to his feet with some effort. “Looks like you're not going to play nice. I was hoping you'd see sense and surrender, but maybe you need to be taught a lesson first.” He raised his sword, ready for the next attack. The monster roared.
“So are you going to tell me about this ritual?” Tilda asked. “I'm going to guess it involves sacred oaths and bloodletting.”
“Well, you're half right,” Arma said, with a laugh. “It does involve some oaths. Really, though, it's not as alien or strange as you think. Humans even adopted the practice, though I think they interpret it somewhat differently.”
“Oh?” Tilda raised her eyebrows, even more curious now. “That's interesting.”
“You'd be surprised how much of your culture borrows some pointers from ours. We've been here for a long time, you see.”