Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by apathy


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200km E of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo

Thin fingers drummed along as the crackle of static cut across the cheerful rhythm of afrobeat that buzzed from the jeep's sound system. The vehicle had come with her father's acceptance of a position along with a new house far away from all that was home. A deep stream of sorrow flowed through Ayanda's core as she thought of the last time she'd seen her friends; of the tears shed and the promises made to keep in touch. She looked through the window as her head rested against the glass, her eyes vacantly following the Congo's waters as they neared Kisangani.

Through the speakers the shrill sound of feedback cut through the fog of her thoughts. Her father fumbled with the controls for a moment before trying several stations, all of which were suffering from the same interference as the klaxon of an emergency broadcast bled through the noise. Nyerere brought the vehicle to a stop on the side of the road, leaving the engine running as he moved to the rear and opened the tailgate.

"Stay calm, Ayanda. Keep scanning for a clear broadcast." She watched through the rearview mirror as he retrieved a small case which housed a satellite phone. Putting the receiver to his ear, his attempt to dial for help was cut short as the connection was immediately severed. His pulse began to rise as several scenarios ran through his mind as he tried to rationalize his present circumstances. War was the only conclusion he could come to. But on what scale? He tried to keep a brave face for his daughter as he sat back behind the steering wheel, the phone case set on the dashboard.

"At least we have the Congo to sing to us for the rest of the drive." He smiled bravely at his daughter, the last thing she'd see before darkness descended upon her.


Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo

A dull awareness crept into Nyerere's mind as he tried his best to stretch out in the cramped driver's seat. His eyes focused on his daughter's fidgeting form in his rearview and inhaled deeply. He'd pushed himself to the point of exhaustion, driving continuously for the past two days through the madness that had gripped the city; he couldn't recall when he'd fallen asleep but was thankful he was still cognizant enough to have taken shelter.

The first rays of sunlight pierced the cloud cover, refracted through the shattered glass of the warehouse lot he'd chosen. A few more breaths and he shifted the shotgun from his lap to the jeep's dashboard. Scanning his surroundings, he exited the vehicle and spread a map across its hood. He gave it a few glances as he continued to stretch in a vain attempt to rid himself of his fatigue. Retrieving a half-empty thermos, Nyerere oriented himself with the map and made note of a few routes to the nearest hospital before draining the container with a few much-needed gulps.

Folding and pocketing the map, he peered through the windshield at Ayanda who'd begun to thrash about in the back seat. The glare of the sun reflecting off the Congo as it settled in the morning sky blinded Nyerere momentarily as a shot rang out, richocheting off a nearby vehicle. Within moments he was back behind the wheel, driving through the chain link fence of a shipping yard into relative safety as more shots echoed in the distance.


100km N of Kindu, Democratic Republic of Congo

The murmur of hushed voices was the first sound she remembered hearing when she awoke to a world of darkness. Ayanda's breaths came in short, ragged gasps as fear and confusion gripped her. It was then that she felt a cool hand press against her feverish forehead while a familiar voice called out her name.

"Ayanda... My precious, I am so relieved that you're awake. You are safe," her father said, a tinge of something unfamiliar in his voice.
"M-my head.." she struggled to speak, her head filling with the muffled drone of her surroundings.
"It makes my heart lighter to hear you speak. It's been three days since you were last conscious, and that was for a brief moment. Tell me, my moonlight, what is the last thing you remember?"

Silence was her response as she sought to piece together the tattered memories of the week prior. The sensation of the room around her faded away and she found herself in the passenger's seat. Her ears focused on the sound of the river that had begun to flow furiously as gales swept through the dense treeline. Ayanda saw her father, his smile umbrage for something he sought to hide from her. Her thoughts moved past him and she sat up with a bolt. Struck by the sudden and horrible recollection, she instinctively clutched at her eyes. She screamed in shock as her hands pressed against several layers of bandages.

The words that followed came through tears that were choked back. "I am sorry, my love. All of the hospitals are... Finding a doctor is difficult right now. I brought you to someone who will help. That's all that matters. They have done the best they can for us and are hopeful your sight will return. You should rest, we can talk about what you remember later."

"B-behind you..." she began as she lowered her arms, "there was a storm cloud. No.. I thought it was a cloud... the kind that would send me running to the windows to watch while Mama sang..." Another bolt; they hadn't spoken much about her mother in the past several years. She continued as tears stung her enveloped eyes. "It moved in the most terrible manner. Like a beheaded snake thrashing about. It.. it was so large... and a storm raged behind it."

Raindrops drummed against the metallic roof of the clinic with a metallic pang as she found herself returned to the bed, her father shifting uncomfortably at her bedside. Her voice had dropped to just above a whisper. "Then there was a flash... and everything went black." She felt the weight of her words trickle into the room as heavy drops fell from the eaves of the rooftop onto the thirsty undergrowth.


70km NE of Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo

The warmth of the fire Ayanda sat before danced across her skin and she swore she could see the ever-shifting shades of reds with a level of vibrance she had never felt before. She traced a mindless pattern in the surrounding ash with the end of the staff her father had carved for her while she recovered enough to continue moving south towards home. The voices in the camp were defeated, having spent the past two months trekking through the rainforest in search of the Zambian border. If her condition had given her anything, it was time to listen. She heard much along the way and most of it was unpleasant.

The first days of their journey had seen them evacuating the families of several villages between the small mission that Father Jefferson oversaw and Kindu. A corruption had spread across the land; one that ate at the flesh and soul of those that had always known struggle but now were met with existential contempt. Many of the roads had been taken over by gangs of soldiers that quickly began to tear at each other's throats for whatever they could.

It had cost the lives of many to learn this lesson. Jefferson and a group of young hunters along with her father had been ambushed while attempting to scout ahead, taking Nyerere's jeep. Much of their party were injured or infirm and the roads would have been a small mercy. None of the youths returned from this. She felt the grief of their blood. She wept for them and it still stung.

Her skin crawled with the sudden apprehension that she was being watched. Ayanda rose to her feet, steadying herself with the staff. "Who is there?" The sounds of soft rainfall in the bush flushed her senses. She was aware of each individual drop that sputtered against the smoldering logs; of each muffled cough and sniffling nose. Further off she heard, or rather felt, Nyerere as he and the elders convened.

"You are sharp."

Ayanda and the flames reacted uncomfortably at the sound of the voice. It seemed to come from a deep cavern, disconnected from the surrounding jungle. A presence emerged into the shifting light of the fire. "Something flows around you; a great potential. It frightens me." Sudden recognition dawned upon Ayanda as she identified the voice as that of the woman that assisted Father Jefferson in her recovery. Ayanda had taken the woman's apprehension as an indication of the severity of her wounds. She stood silently, leaning heavily upon her staff.

Soft foot-falls grew nearer as the voice continued to speak. "Your father came to us in great disarray. We had yet to learn of the incident when he came rushing down the road in his jeep, honking his horn like a madman. You were left with me in the clinic as Father Jefferson took your father outside and tried to calm him down enough to explain your injuries. Your fever was in its third day; and you had been ranting whenever you weren't unconscious. You spoke of death and demons."

A hand gently pressed against her shoulders and the two sat side-by-side and the world around her was no longer a void. She found herself once more in the small clinic, astounded by the simulacra of sight she experienced. A passive and ghostly observer, Ayanda watched as a seated figure tended to her past-self. As she neared, she realized it was her present companion. She was heavy-set and radiated strength; her steady hands surprisingly gentle as she daubed at Ayanda's damaged eyes as she thrashed in agitated sleep. Suddenly the supine form bolted upright as shoulders rose and fell in ragged breaths. The older woman, Faizah, tried to comfort the girl and return her to a restful position but found she could not budge the petite form who began to mutter snippets of the conversation Father Jefferson and Faizah had earlier that morning. A bowl filled with warm water and rags crashed to the ground and with it Ayanda was returned to the bush.

"What happened? Can you describe it?"

Ayanda's knees shook violently as she fought to make sense of what transpired. Since she'd lost her sight she had began to experience moments when an awareness she could barely fathom would come upon her. She sought to put into the words how vivid everything seemed at those moments and how rooted she was each time it happened. Faizah listened intently as the young girl described the strange turn her life had taken and knew of the importance of the role she'd one day play. Faizah would personally ensure that this girl be taken to those who could cultivate her gift.

The screams erupted from the other side of the camp; where most of the refugees had gathered to offer a semblance of normalcy in the dark days they dwelt in. Both women rose and turned to the source of the sound, and before Ayanda could react she already heard Faizah cutting through the dense foliage. Steeling herself, she extended her free arm and began to move. Trying to flee would do her no good; she would have been lost even with her eyesight. Ayanda's senses were overwhelmed as she grew closer to the chaos; bestial snarling underscoring the panicked shrieks of children as the few defenders they had yelled commands to the group.

"To the Lualaba! To the river!"

The demand was followed by three blasts in rapid succession, accompanied by a vicious and pained bellow. She fell to her knees, the staff held tight against her chest. The rains intensified as her body wracked with sobs. Incapable of acting amidst the din of confusion she became a snack amongst delicacies. Undergrowth rustled as Nyerere ran and slid across the jungle floor, pleading with Ayanda to rise. He cradled her crumpled form while shakily loading shells into a shotgun. "You have to get up! Ayanda!"

The sensation of her father's presence broke through the dissonance and she followed his command and stood, a hand upon Nyerere's shoulder as he assumed a kneeling position. Chambering a shell into a late-model Remington 1100, Nyerere scanned the tree-line as it violently shook with the movement of trampling beasts. They began to fall back to rejoin the others by the river as savage chuckles intermingled with the sound of snapping bones and tearing flesh.

The rush of the Lualaba and the splashing of survivors crossing it provided false confidence and Nyerere noticed just how much his daughter had grown in the past months. Her mother's strength lived on in Ayanda, and he knew she would need it in the days to come. "Go!" he yelled, pushing her towards the water and he turned; the searing pain he felt registering for an infinitesimal moment before he was reduced to spasming motor functions.

As her consciousness plunged beneath the Lualaba, it underwent a complete shift in criterion. She surfaced, and although her sight had not been restored she still emptied the contents of her stomach at what she saw. Her father's headless body convulsed as it was circled by what resembled a hyena as massive as her father's jeep. Its hide was mottled and matted. Viscous saliva fell from churning jaws that made quick work of its meal. Nyerere's remains were immediately pounced upon by similar yet smaller beasts that expelled a pungent secretion from engorged and prolapsed anuses.

Ayanda wiped the bile from her mouth with trembling hand. Once more she felt herself being consumed, not with sorrow but fury. It was the first time she had allowed herself to feel any anger since she'd lost her sight. She struggled to keep a brave face for Baba, even though she blamed him. It was his fault for accepting the job. It was his fault she was blind. It was his fault mo-- jagged shards of perse and peridot penetrated the river basin as it was torn apart; an extension of her rage. Tendrils of solid kolwezite churned through the muddied and bloodied waters as a platform began to rise, separating Ayanda and the remaining survivors from their pursuers. Rich deposits of the chromatic mineral began to layer over one another into a latticework that made an impromptu tomb for her father and a prison for his killers.

Retreating into the water, Ayanda retrieved her staff and with a gesture began to unconsciously carve a path through river and jungle. Her breaths again came in short and ragged gasps, the exertion overtaking her. Her steps faltered and before she could finish stumbling, Faizah appeared at her side, a bundle swaddled in one arm. A warm palm was pressed against Ayanda's forehead and the three of them were gone.


800m SW of Marange, Free Territories (formerly Zimbabwe)

I'm counting three.. four groups of ilaalada, heavily armed with rotating patrol routes. There's a cluster of shacks to the west bordering fields of razertsanga.

Beads of sweat rolled down scarred cheeks as a set of binoculars was lowered; its worn leather straps dripping with collected perspiration. Taking up an elevated position south of the mining complex, Asad had scrambled up a tree to perform reconnaissance. Drying his hands on the cloth of a satchel on his hip, he produced a small notebook and quickly sketched a crude diagram of the site, marking down what he'd observed over the past several hours. Satisfied with its accuracy after taking one last glance, Asad pocketed the book and adjusted the AKs-74u slung over his back before descending.

The small camp he returned to had not existed hours before and would be gone within minutes of their passing. With him, their squad was composed of six fighters; six against an armed and experienced force of at least sixty. Even with the commander and her bodyguard, he did not see how they would take the mine. His training and instinct told him this was suicide; he swallowed his insecurity and strode past the others to the lean-to that served as their FOB. Inside, the commander sat as she spoke with Tatonga and Takunda; brothers gifted with more bravery than the lion whose name Asad bore. All three turned as he approached, producing the notebook and extending it to his comrades.

After an awkward beat, the commander extended an arm and took the book with a smile. Heat rose from the back of his neck in embarrassment as he recalled her blindness. Asad hadn't been with the movement long, though he had heard much of the NYUNDO and their commander. Rumors said she was a powerful saaxirad; he was more skeptical. In the months since he'd joined his time had been split between small incursions against Mbavha and passing along what he'd learned during his time with the Ciidanka Danab to the recruits.

"Many thanks, Asad. Not just for this, but for all you've done for the survival of our movement. These two were just commending you," she gestured to the brothers, "and if truth be told, would not have approved of this operation without your participation. It seems that even the mighty Gwinyai brothers know when to temper bravery with wisdom."

He gave a quick salute at her words before stammering, "The.. I.. There's a map in there of the mine, commander."
"Please, we are all soldiers here. My name is Ayanda."
"Yes, com- Ayanda."

With another gesture from her, Tatonga took the book from Asad and began to commit it to memory as Takunda crossed the cramped quarters, giving up his seat next to the commander. "Come, sit and tell me- given what you've observed, what do you think?"

He began as his back pressed uncomfortably against a thatch wall, "The complex is heavily fortified. The only entrance is from the south, on an old bridge flanked by guard towers. I marked the two sharpshooters I spotted on the map, armed with Dragunovs." Dabbing sweat off himself, he continued with his report as the commander sat quietly, an eerie calm radiating outwards from her. "There's a gunner's nest overlooking the razertsanga fields to the west, while the north and east are inaccessible given our equipment. There is no viable entrance for us, commander. Forgive me- Ayanda. But this is suicide given our limited numbers and no viable point of entrance."

The humidity in the hut was becoming unbearable; he was a soldier, not a martyr. The NYUNDO prided themselves on open and direct communication amongst its members, but he felt he had over-stepped his bounds and insulted his superior. She continued to sit in silence as she measured her response. "Your honesty is what I asked for, and it is what I have been given. Feel no shame in what you've said, for I wouldn't ask the impossible of you. I reserve that for myself."

The soil at their feet began to churn as several roots rose, their tendrils coiling over one another until they had formed an ersatz table, upon which a miniature survey of the mine took shape, down to the position of personnel. A wave of concentration passed over her face as the minute forms of soldiers began to move. "You missed a few."

Asad gave a stunned chuckle as he began to see why Tatonga and Takunda so fervently believed in the commander. She continued, the actions of her words being played out before them as the walls of the hut unfurled like a blossoming flower, the other fighters save one gathering 'round to see the plan of attack. They would strike in a few hours' time, as darkness descended. Asad looked over to the boy who sat alone as the others listened; he stared fixedly at the ground as he absent-mindedly loaded .45 rounds into spare magazines. Could this boy, no older than sixteen truly be the commander's bodyguard? Did she require one? The two of them were unknown variables to Asad, but the others were convinced. Even Khethiwe, who took every assignment with the utmost gravity seemed to be put at ease. Insh'Allah they were right.


Tall stalks of razerstanga swayed to the whims of breezes that swept through the field; the six of them kept low to the ground as they moved towards the shacks at the field's edge. Mshale led the squad while Ayanda brought up the rear; exerting her willpower, causing the serrated edges of the mutated grain from rending their group asunder. The rustling of their gear was masked by the deep rumble of the generators used to power Marange and its industrial mining equipment.

Approaching the end of their cover, the group came to a stop as Mshale gave the command to halt. Weapons were quickly readied as all listened intently. The acrid smell of tumbaku rose in spindly plumes. The two were in a heated discussion over rations, angered over the end of most foreign aid to the continent. The guards paced the length of the field, unknowingly passing their location.

"What if we kill some miners? We say to big boss there was kumukira and we had to. More food for us. Maybe more tumbaku." The two shook free hands as they chuckled at their brilliance. "Big boss won't like there was kumukira," the other added, "means fun for us too." The laughter in their throats turned to confused gasps as the microscopic particulates of tobacco they'd ingested began to violently amalgamate within their bodies, suffocating them as Takunda and Tatonga emerged from the fields in a crouched run, relieving the guards of their firearms as their convulsing forms were left to asphyxiate hidden from view.

Emerging in unison, the squad quickly made their way towards the bridge to secure it for when reinforcements arrived. The route Ayanda had chosen wove through a congregation of shacks and shipping containers that had once stored aid that these fulayos hoarded. They began advancing, methodically securing each building as they progressed. The first few stored harvested razertsanga and the tools necessary to perform such a dangerous task. It was halfway through when the stench began. Asad had grown accustomed to it in 30 years of bloodshed; horror had become routine. Grim looks were exchanged as the Gwinyai brothers took point and entered the darkened doorway.

The two returned with ashen faces; no more had to be said. Razertsanga requires a steady supply of meat to maintain it and miners too broken to work were the ideal source once they could no longer be worked. Huddled together, the dead and dying miners could do little to offer any support, but those strong enough spoke of others deeper into the facility. Khethiwe and the Gwinyai brothers went to work moving the living into an adjacent building as Asad approached the commander and her guard.

"Orders, commander?" he asked, adjusting his grip on the weapon's receiver.
"Mshale and I will continue with the assault while Khethiwe and the Gwinyais guard the survivors. I am trusting you to secure the bridge and watch tower once we begin and signal the secondary unit."

He hesitated then gave a brief nod before breaking into a silent sprint towards a deep channel the commander had created, giving him ample cover to get into position at the foot of the bridge. Asad thumbed the safety off of his AKs-74u and whispered a prayer as motes of dust hung in the air. Checking his watch, Asad finished his prayer as the moment drew near. He steadied his weapon as the first rapports began, followed by heavy boots across the bridge's wooden planks as the mine's guards moved to engage the commander.

She knew how to keep the enemy's attention, Asad admitted as he clambered up the bridge's supports. Coming over the top, he immediately assumed a prone firing position and tore through the two remaining guardsmen with quick bursts of gunfire. He rose to one knee, and replaced the half-empty magazine with a fresh one and racked back the firing bolt, chambering a round. Satisfied that there were no more visible threats, Asad continued to the end of the bridge and up the small watch tower. He pushed the still gurgling body of a guard aside and fired a flare into the night sky. Retrieving the fallen guard's Dragunov, he took up an overwatch position and awaited the others.


Ayanda felt the hushed foot falls retreating away from her as Asad followed her commands. He was a good soldier, and a much needed addition to NYUNDO. She'd felt overwhelmed ever since committing herself to bringing peace to the Free Territories. Early ties with what had remained of the Comte Foundation and other humanitarian organizations did much when the quarantine began, but those resources dwindled years ago. Liberating Marange would do much for security amongst the neighboring peoples.

The polished bands of Mpingo that adorned Ayanda's neck, wrists and shins pulsed with life as luminous patches of moss swelled within unfurling wooden strands. The growth continued, a thick resin bubbling forth that formed layer upon layer of protective armor. A smooth and featureless casque turned towards Mshale, and her voice echoed strangely inside it as she gave an arduous grunt, propelling Mshale and herself forward upon a throbbing wave of upturned earth.

The shrill buzz of passing rounds was a minor agitation as most of them were far off the mark; fired in desperation as crystalline thorns erupted from the soil before shattering in volleys of piercing shrapnel. Mshale took the lead, a concussive wave of telepathic might tearing through several firing positions. He landed deftly, firing a M1911 pistol while projecting a field to protect his exposed flank.

The flare round fizzled high into the air in a twisting parabola, casting an ominous red tinge as small fires began to break out in the barracks on the far side of the mining complex. A steady trickle of blood began to pour from Mshale's nose as rounds flattened against his barrier; and with a surge of willpower he launched an onslaught outwards that caused flesh to tear and bone to splinter within its radius. Pushing the opposition's forces back into the excavated caverns, Ayanda gave her guard the command to rest as she pushed on.

Her consciousness extended throughout the network of tunnels and shafts that had been dug through years of suffering. Her abilities weren't necessary to feel the overbearing sense of misery that permeated the air. Her heart raced as she felt each atrocity come down upon her like a lash. Phantasms of memory acted out before her in awful repetition, and in this ghastly stupor she stumbled deeper into the mine until she came to a wide chamber, illuminated with hundreds of candles.

"You come, muroyi!" a voice reverberated through the room; it was slick with malice and felt as ancient as their surroundings. A deep pool of fetid water had flooded the lower half of the cavern and in it danced the gaunt speaker. Her senses were overcome by a palpable manifestation of the corruption that had spread since long before the Val'Gara had arrived. A flurry of flames shot towards her form as she leapt backwards defensively. Summoning her strength and focusing through the haze of haunted recollections, she created a stannic spire that erupted with the exposed flames and came down upon the grotesque leader of Marange.

Thick clouds of smoke and dust rose from an exposed hole in the ceiling of the cavernous chamber. Moonlight rushed to reach earth that had not seen light of its kind in ages. Ayanda gave an exhausted shrug as her armor fell away; a dulled clatter on the rubble. She stepped forward into the pool and as her arms opened to bask in the cool air, the water began to return to its pristine state.


XSF Delta Station, Karoo, South Africa

Drumming the end of a pen against the lip of his mug, Pt. Mikalson looked wistfully as the clock ticked on. It was almost lunch time and they were serving roasted sonderhond that Keller had managed to track his last time into the bush. He'd been stationed here two months ago, having graduated from the Cape Town Academy with less than stellar marks. The occasional bushmeat had been his only real pleasure in what seemed like endless stretches of mindless minutiae. He didn't really see the point of having operational stations within Xanathan lands.

A chime from a small speaker on his desk went off as a notification blipped on the screen. He gave the keyboard a dissatisfied prod with his makeshift drumstick, his eyes poring over one of several daily reports from low-flying drones. Much of the troposphere had been heavily irradiated during the creation of the Glasveld and all but their most advanced aircraft could navigate the skies without disruption. It was usually nothing but grainy images of skirmishes amongst the "free peoples" or packs of Valdieren . He knocked over the mug with a crash as he reached for radio's transmitter.

"Kry my die generaal!"

Mt. Cameroon

The interference seemed unavoidable, Lt. Smit observed as he completed a third round of calibrations on the recording equipment each XSF operator was outfitted with. He gave the monitor displaying the feed one last exasperated smack before taking a seat. Smit watched on in detached appraisal as he relayed the order to commence. Distortion filtered through the feed as each operator began to move in on the coordinates the drone had provided a week earlier. His attention focused on that of the lead field agent who raised the barrel of his H&K G36, nodding curtly as two other agents breeched the thatch door of a dilapidated shack.

The three entered, clearing their sectors. A halo briefly appeared on screen as the agent switched on their PR-3 G2 rail flashlight. Automatically adjusting for the new light source, the video feed clearly revelealed the contents of the cramped quarters. The other two operators exited, providing the lead ample room to perform his investigation. He began overturning the room's limited furniture, scouring for any sign of its inhabitant. Flipping over a cot, he discovered a collection of singed notes bundled in the coarse tatters of a field bag.

A shadow shifted overhead as the gaunt form of a hirsute man dropped from the ceiling's arches. He crashed against the operator's tactical vest and clawed frantically at the man's prostrate form. A horrendeous and guttural bellow came from the rabid being as he successfully took back his belongings, as well as some of the man's ear he'd managed to bite off in the fray. His animalistic celebration was cut short as the fiberglass buttstock of a rifle slammed against a wagging mane.

300km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)

"How'd you let this doos get the drop on you, eh?" a voice guffawed as he struck the bars of the containment cell. "Fucking hell, he stinks worse than your mother's poes! At least the fucker's stopped yelling, eh? Or could you not hear him, Danse?"

Another guffaw as the hunched form within the cell gave the man a contemptuous glare from sunken, sallow eyes. It had taken him two days to cease yelling since separated from the bag, whose contents were currently being analyzed in the research vehicle that was part of their caravan. Primary analyses revealed high levels of radiation, along with various dormant strains of unknown pathogens.

Danse leaned over and peered out from beneath the guaze that covered his wound. With a grimace he spat on the prisoner and audibly complained, "Why do we have to keep it alive? It's obviously another mutie and should be put down." Danse unholstered his service pistol and rapped it impatiently against the plexiglass observation panel in an attempt to gesture towards the research vehicle. "Once they figure out you're useless, I'll be glad to kill you myself. I know how to make it-"

His words hung in the air as the armored personnel carrier was explosively launched upwards, its passengers rattling around its cabin with bone-breaking force.
Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Zyamasiel


Member Seen 2 days ago

Bharata stood at the forefront of the table, his palms resting flat on the mahogany surface. His eyes looked up over the rims of his glasses, searching the faces of each and every person at the table. He stood silently, questioningly. His fingers rapped softly, and as he stood there - scanning their faces for any sign of treachery, he began to question their motives entirely. Why were they here? Had they any intention of taking this seriously, or did they simply show up to appease the boss man? The members of the board weren't quite the smartest of the lot, chosen instead for their inability to disobey the boss, than their ability to actually run Xanathan. That was up to him, he'd taken it from a single country to a worldwide supplier of goods. They grew more and more as the years passed, and their foothold over Africa was only the beginning. So, he looked at them and wondered if they even cared about that - or if they simply wanted to ride on his coattails. They'd certainly done that, no one in the room was worth near what he was - but considerly more than the average person in a company such as this one.

"All in," he said suddenly, pushing a fair amount of chips to the center of the table before settling back into his chair. He knew he had them beaten, his hand was a good one. Two pairs. He just knew they couldn't beat that. None of them were that lucky, surely. So, as he sat back down he watched the table. Each man, in turn, laid down their cards into the discard pile. Folding their hands, and conceding defeat to their boss. His laughter rang out, and he pulled back twice the amount of chips he'd pushed into it. "I knew I had you guys beat, you're all so easy to read."

They chuckled nervously, and the deck passed on to the next man, to be doled out in kind again. As the man began dealing, the double-doors leading out of the conference room busted open. There stood the bald-headed man with an eye tattooed in the center of his forehead. Markus walked across the room, and shifted to sit on the table next to Bharata's growing chip pile. He didn't speak, in fact he couldn't speak. His tongue was cut out long ago by people who didn't enjoy hearing their own thoughts spoken aloud, or their futures told in the voice of a child.

"We have a problem, boss," the other transmitted into his brain, his psychic power overruling Bharata's intense focus and defenses. It became something of a game to them, to see whose mind was the strongest - though Markus always won," our convoy heading out of Lamda-5 was hit. We're not entirely sure by what, or who, but they took him."

The him Markus referred to was well known to Bharata, they'd sought him out for years now. Out in the Glasslands, where nothing could survive for long on its own - especially not without the proper defenses against the environment. Finally, they found him and now Markus was here telling him that the man was gone? They needed him. He was essential to their plans, to their studies. Bharata slapped the table with enough force to knock over everyones pile of chips.

"Goddammit, Markus." He spoke back into the other's head. Even his mental voice seethed with anger, with frustration. But, not at the loss of the man. "You interrupted the game, I was winning - there was no way they could have beaten me. I bluffed them out easy the last hand, and now you're here interrupting when I could take them for everything they have."

"Sir," Markus began, a slight chuckle to his mind-voice, "the man to your right folded a Royal Flush. Of course you were going to win, they knew you would win before they ever showed up here. They always let you win, because a happy boss means a happy workplace."

Bharata slammed his hand down on the table again, this time with his anger seething out in his real voice. "Johnson, are you letting me win? Are all of you letting me win?" He bellowed, his eyes dark and cold. No sign of human emotion, of empathy, within them. The people gathered around the table nodded their heads, each slightly but enough to notice. Nerves filled the room, and their hands shook.

They knew what was coming.

Bharata whipped out his personal firearm, a Beretta .45. Firing one shot a piece, he put a bullet between the eyes of every single person sitting at the table. 'Was that really necessary, sir? Now I have to find and vett you another board of directors, and you know how time-consuming that can be.'

'Shut up, Markus. Meet me in my office in ten minutes, and we'll discuss what we're going to be doing about this situation.'

Five minutes later

Standing in the middle of his office, an array of televisions lined up on the far wall and his eyes focused on them entirely. He watched the footage of XSF Delta, taken from their security feeds and stored wirelessly in their satellites. Then, he watched the footage from Mt. Cameron, and on another screen the footage of his convoy violently exploding upwards, into the sky. He watched silently, as Markus prepared to speak. They'd made haste here, especially after learning of two other attacks on their people in the field.

"What could be causing this, Markus? Who could be doing this? Have we not done right by the people of Africa, who would seek to turn against us?"

"Probably the people living in the wildlands, sir. They tend to not like the oversight, or the good lives we've offered. Their families eat because of us, survive because of us. The diamond mines are a great source of work, and they are paid fairly for their tasks."

Of course, in a civilized world their pay would be considered very subpar, almost insulting. But, for the jobs they had available, they made a wage that could at least allow a person in their household to survive. Probably not the whole household though, and definitely not in anything considered a house.

Bharata nodded, and walked over to his phone. Pressing the one button, and the intercom button he immediately rang up his secretary's office. "Martha, connect me with Operations."

"Immediately, sir," her soft british accent always got him. That's why he hired the woman, not for her ability to do the job - but for her ability to suck a dick.

A bit later, one of the screens on the wall shifted - and the face of a hard, violent woman stared back at him from somewhere near the Glasslands. "Colonel, you wanna tell me what the hell is going on out there?" Bharata demanded, his voice laced with the hint that if she didn't, there would be hell to pay. "You've been attacked three times in one night, and I'm not sure by who or what. Care to explain?"

"Sir, from what we've gathered from...information obtaining techniques....it's a group of militant radicals. We're unsure of their motives, their means, or what they hope to accomplish. In fact, we don't even know the names of their leaders, or how many of them there are. It's like, before last night, none of them even existed."

"Well you better damn well find out something we can use to stop them, Colonel, or I might be looking into replacing you along with the rest of the board."

In the background, a man stopped moving. On her screen, he turned and looked - but didn't truly see. Without thinking, he spoke; "HOW DARE YOU TALK TO MY WIFE LIKE THAT, WHO IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU A-"

Before he could even finish his insulting words, Bharata's hand snapped to his left. It shifted as if through a pool of nothing, and came out on the other side. His hand grabbed the others jaw and pulled him through, all the way from the Glasslands to Johannesburg HQ. His nose touched the others, and his eyes were cold and dead inside.

"I think I am Bharata Rendenvauld, your boss. The boss of your wife, and the man who will happily spit-roast you and watch as your skin melts away and your meat cooks, before I enjoy you with my evening tea. Now, I think it best if you hush your insolent mouth and return to your post, do your job, and I might find it in my heart to let you live long enough to see me fuck your wife, are we clear?"

The other man nodded, fear prevalent above all else. Bharata releasted him with a shove, sending him back through the opening in space/time and letting him fall on his ass behind his wife. He immediately stood up, steadied himself, and then rushed off-screen. Presumably to return to his assigned tasks.

'You shouldn't be so rude with them, sir. What if they turn on you, because of the way you treat them?'

'Ah, Markus. They don't have the balls to turn on me, they know what would happen. They can't run, they can't hide. They can only cower in fear of my strength, before I remove them from this life. They are unimportant anyway, mercenaries hired and trained to act as Xanathan Security Forces. There's a million more where they come from. No, the important ones are gone - they had custody of our charge and they failed in their task. Hopefully a survivor comes forward to tell us what happened, but even he will be put down for his failures.'

Bharata turned back to the colonel, and he gave her a look of pure hatred before shutting off the screens. He immediately returned to his desk, and began sifting through the days paperwork and preparing things in case he had to get out in the field himself and handle the situation. Something he was not fond of doing, but knew might become necessary soon.
Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Circ
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As the laminated cardboard door creaked wide, Ndakala Blayhi glanced up from the plywood slab and plastic crates that composed his desk. With a gesture, he lifted cheap horn-rimmed glasses off the bridge of his nose; not prescription, but adequate to read words on a page. Expressions were another matter. Still on his desk, atop a stack of papers, was his new identification card. On it was printed and embossed his third name, same as his first and inherited from his grandfather, an Efé village shaman. He was proud to reclaim it, but likewise ashamed the journey took so long. While his former and second name, Joshua, availed him security and opportunity, he now recognized it came at the cost of identity. ‘Joshua’ was a symbolic rejection of his past—an ingratiation to those in power over his world. This was something he could not comprehend as a young boy, but now, much later in life, recognized the subtext.

Fortunately, he outlived the west's cultural war. They lost. Not to his people, who were too disorganized and fraught with internal strife to ever stand up to the west; rather, unable to cope with the fallout of the Val’Gara attack, the west abandoned him, his kinsmen, his country, and the whole African continent. In their place reigned chaos and an alien business—Xanathan Enterprises. Still, the quarantine was the direct cause that yielded a new era of violent cultural revitalization, even as new powers sought to impose their will on the cradle of humankind.

‘Joshua’ was now a liability. Were it not for that, apathy would have hewn it on his tombstone.

“How may I help you, Digbo?” he asked.

The stock clerk’s attention drifted to the single personal item in the makeshift office tucked behind pallets of melons, paper towels, and water. It was his first day on the job, but Ndakala thought he would do well as a member of the Aldi famiy.

“Ah,” Ndakala carefully lifted the bibelot and looked at it the way he always did, as though it was his first time. “My grandfather, my mother, and myself. One of few photos taken of the Efé village in the Ituri. Yes, yes, that young man was me. Now I am old and my hair—I use to have some, as you can see—what little is left is white.”

He laughed and carefully set it back down on his desk.

“But what interest does a young man with his life in front of him have in an old man? No doubt you are anxious to leave and celebrate life.”

Digbo, a dark rhino of a youth from Kraaifontein district, just shrugged his heavy round shoulders and vaguely smiled. A former rugby player and, at six foot five inches, over two feet taller than Ndakala, Digbo wasn’t much of a talker. Most of those who worked in the back were quiet. The cashiers were the ones who loved to socialize.

Ndakala stood up, went back to the safe, keyed in the combination, and found the company checkbook. He removed just one check, secured the safe, turned around, sat down at his desk, and filled it out. Done, he stood up, handed it to Digbo, and shook his hand.

“What better way to celebrate than with your first paycheck, yes?”

That got a much larger smile. Toothy white, a handsome contrast.

Ndakala nodded and smiled back, “Good, good. Be well. I hope to see you still here after I return in a few days.”

“Yes, sir, Mister Blahyi. You will.”

Digbo turned and left, leaving Ndakala once more alone. Not a nosy one, that, he thought as he brushed a fly off a patch of melanoma-poisoned skin on his bald head. No doubt he was more interested in checking in on his friends or a special someone than the sojourns of an old man. Still, Digbo appeared trustworthy, strong, and showed consideration for his fellow Aldi employs. Eventually, Ndakala might recruit him to a broader humanitarian interest.

Eventually, everyone was gone and he, as manager, was left to turn off the lights and lock up the store. His assistant manager would unlock it in the morning. Aldi—indeed, most of Cape Town—didn’t operate on the 24/7 immediate gratification work cycle of the west. He was glad of that.
Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by apathy


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288km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)


The image; a singeing cascade of sparks that swam to him through the stupor of trauma. There was a sound, layered deep beneath the muted thumping of his own erratic heartbeat. The form of Corporal Danse struggled as he attempted to rise, his movements impeded by an unknown weight. His gaze scanned down, past the tactical rig and plate carrier from which protruded the better half of a five-inch long steel projectile. Bloodied and unsteady hands tried to free it from the armor, but it would not yield. The adrenaline that surged through his body was beginning to falter, and with its ebb came pain's flow.


Bile rose in his throat as his eyes fixed on the exposed tissue and bone of his legs. The splintered end of his right fibula was barely held in place by the straps of the kevlar panels that had failed to protect him. He fought the urge to vomit into his own wounds, even as the pain began to peak. Using one of his arms as a fulchrum, Danse strove to pull himself upwards enough to free the drop pouch secured to his war belt. Successfully retrieving an autoinjector, Danse immediately pressed it against his jugular and bellowed as a cocktail of combat enhancers and receptor-inhibitors flooded his system.


With the sudden flush of chemicals pumping through him, recognition gripped Danse as he yelled in response, "What the fuck was that?" He tightened the straps on his damaged leg's armor, fashioning a makeshift torniquet and splint. It was then that he realized his orientation wasn't quite what it had been before he awoke in this condition. Danse found himself with his back propped up by the vehicle's ceiling; the dust within the cabin was beginning to settle as he hobbled towards the voice.

Passing the containment cell that housed that mutant bastard, Danse peered inside but was unable to make out much through haze. There was a large crater directly across from him, something having torn through the APC's foot-thick composite armor with relative ease. Reaching the control console, he began hailing all XSF frequencies only to be met with static on each channel.


The voice called out to him, hardly above a whisper, but he was relatively sure he was alone. He peered down the cabin's length, searching for any sign of his squad. It was then that he noticed the cell's door was cracked open. Danse drew his service pistol and approached it cautiously; he pulled the door open and waited for the air to clear somewhat before looking in.


He looked down at the crumpled form of Specialist Wyckers struggling to hold closed the split across his abdomen. Thick blood oozed between the folds of his arms and his chest rose and fell in a crude imitation of breathing. A gurgle rose from Wyckers as he attempted to call out once more, only for the resounding echo of a gunshot to reverberate in his ears.

Keeping his weapon drawn, Danse attempted to leave through the rear door but was unable to force them open. He turned and exited through the blast point, gritting his teeth as he slowly shifted weight onto his injured leg. The rest of his squad were laid out in the road in several stages of dismemberment, some still deluding themselves into thinking they were counted amongst the living. The rest of the convoy was nowhere to be seen, he noted. Glancing at the state of his leg and weighing the odds of survival alone; Danse injected himself with a second and most likely lethal dose and pulled himself onto the top, or bottom, of the vehicle to gain some height. In the wake of hyper-awareness, he could hear a battle raging in the distance. Against the night sky he saw several pillars of smoke rising; and there close-by... Movement!

Earlier that night...

Reclined against the massive bole of a baobab, Mshale carefully studied the path Aya had spent much of her concentration creating since old Assad had come up with this plan months ago. It was devious of the old lion, creating the most efficient and therefore cheap route for Xanathan and their dogs to take. So pleased was the commander with the plan that, for the fist time in months, Mshale saw her smile and completely break away from looking into the Kichaka Siri. Peering through the baobab's boughs at the moon, Mshale inhaled the sweet perfume of its fruit. Tempted, he gave in and with the flicker of a thought one of the fruits flew into an outstretched palm. A crack appeared across its shell and half of it was flung away.

Mshale tossed a pulp-covered seed into his mouth and adopted a meditative pose. He began to concentrate and collect his might into precise points along the road; an intense application of his willpower over the next hours would yield blasts far beyond what Xanathan was prepared for. He smiled, savoring the flavor. Mshale would enjoy tonight very much.
Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Circ
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An old woman sat in the back of Ndakala’s rented bush jeep. She looked far less than her years, but wealth, whiteness, and access to good food and better doctors were larger factors in that than personal genetics. Most hated her ilk. He was not most. Motives, however racially-underpinned or subliminated with guilt, were what earned his respect. Misguided though she was, he understood that she wanted to be of service to his people. Most outsiders, like her, couldn’t help but be fools, and behind him she sat in an immaculate white pantsuit with a floral-print silk scarf flung around her long neck with precision sufficient to make it appear an afterthought. Atop her head was a woven grass hat, which shielded her sweat-flecked brow from the subtropic sun. Barely an hour into the day and the humidity sweltered such that it compelled a paper fan from her satchel.

Her name was Lydia Benson, but to him she was the rich American woman who wanted to visit the place where such a pittance of her wealth was philanthropically invested.

“We are almost to the village, Lady. Maybe another hour, maybe two,” he said as the road turned east, away from the open highveld and into bush forest. The night before, his friend and pilot brought them by propeller plane from Cape Town to Johannesburg, still a bustling city, but also the last bastion of relative safety and civilization under Xanathan rule before wilderness and lawlessness took over. It was a perilous journey given the restrictions imposed on flights in the wake of the Iberian Incident—that being the reason his client remained still in South Africa and why he was making another trip up into the jungle. The details were still sparse, but from what he understood an alien city appeared and buried tens of millions of Earth’s citizens.

He refocused his thoughts back on the journey and their destination. Already, they had spent three hours driving along abandoned roads and over open fields. Now they were in the former Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, just south of the Olifantsrivier, and close to where she wanted to be taken—the village of Phalaborwa.

Suddenly, she screamed; more of a stifled rasp, as he heard the sound of her palm fold over her mouth.

Evidently her eyes were far better than his, for it was a moment or two later before he saw what provoked such a reaction. Half a mile up the road, an overturned personnel carrier smoked. Around it were jeeps upended and on fire. Bodies were strewn all over. One was impaled on the stump of a dead tree, aloft like a macabre scarecrow. Instinctively, he stopped, snatched up his binoculars, and took in the details. The carnage appeared recent, maybe a few hours old. Blood still pooled from the wounds of what might be unconscious survivors. The vehicles were Xanathan, no doubt about it. He knew not what crazy guirellas dared venture so deep into the corporation’s territory, but they must not have accounted for the consequences that would befall the entire region. The riposte would be horrible and it would go worse for anyone found in this area.

“We have to leave right away. We can’t go this way, Lady. We have to go around. North. Off-road. It will add another two hours on to our trip, but I know a way. Through a canyon. Very dangerous, but it is either that or turn around.”

She nodded.

“Keep going?”

She nodded again.

He started the jeep, backtracked two miles, and turned up a game path that led down a steep embankment. It was mere minutes after his jeep was safe beneath the cover of the brush that he heard the choppers. It wasn’t the time to keep moving, it was the time to wait. He stopped, motioned for Lydia to get out, and they both crawled underneath the vehicle in the hopes of evading any thermal scans—if it wasn’t already too late.

“Just keep calm and quiet and nobody will know we’re here,” Ndakala whispered.
Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Gattsu
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Gattsu Cold meat. Fresh cut.

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Danse’s vision pulsed as his eyes darted around, his peripherals hyper-aware to threats and movement. His breath came ragged as his heart pounded in his chest, verging on cardiac arrest. Against the evening backdrop he noticed something shifting in the shrubbery, and with a swiftness that indicated second-nature he trained his firearm on the perceived threat. Even though the weather had cooled dramatically from the african day temperature, sweat beaded down the Corporal’s temple.

A blank-faced south-african man stumbled out of the bush. Danse recognized the close-cropped hair, the young face (though devoid of the enthusiasm it once carried), and the slight build of Private Bekkers. All things considered he was a newbie, who just graduated basic training. The Corporal lowered the sights of his pistol, and considered for only a moment the disappointment of finding such hopes for a promising new recruit dashed by cowardice.

That moment was far too long.

Bekkers took two drunken steps forward, the first revealing his ruined left leg, the second revealing the charred and missing sections of his back where the uniform burned away. Then something leaped over his shoulders with a snarl, pouncing the distance like a hunting lion out of savannah grass. Danse’s shoulder jerked as he rattled off two shots, the first of which was wide, wild, and fled into the bush. For the second shot his combat enhancers and sensory focusers kicked in, and with a form that indicated a maneuver that was second-nature to him, delivered a round into the shoulder of the creature formerly known as Arentino Swain. It wasn’t enough, and Danse quickly became the sundered gazelle, as the creature jammed his fingers into the soldiers stomach, lifted him off his feet, and tore him apart.

The creature, a pale-skinned emaciated humanoid, crept away from Danse’s corpse in its preferred posture of toes and palms. Each arm feeling out ahead of the main body like the willowy limbs of a spider. Through ragged breaths and patchy hair that strung down his face, the creature formerly known Arentino glared at the distant firefight. He squinted his eyes, to view the plume of smoke in the distance, and scampered towards it.

Supernatural bound telepathy comforted the creature with ancient Khoisan click-consonants beckoning him forth. ”The story of the columns is close.“

Creeping forward, the escorting ATVs to the caravan lay in a disheveled wreck, strewn about blasted cape figs and shattered african junipers. The acrid smell of oxidized oil amalgamated with the smoky scent of burning wood. The creature kept low, and snuck about, making his way to the first of the vans: a hunk of metal that had been corkscrewed by some unseen force. He silently made his way to the unhinged rear doors and could see the upper half of one of the security details that had been sheared in two in the confrontation.

He hunched over the corpse, glancing over his shoulder before dabbing his thumb in the pool of blood and anointed the bisected body. With his thumb, his brush, and his nails, his scarifiers, he created his sigilry on the carcass’s forehead and imparted what little magic the bokor had at his disposal. “The body of flesh is empty. Where is my treasure?” He hissed through rotted, black teeth. A moment passed before the remains gasped, as if it had been drowning only a moment earlier. The corpse looked at him with frosted eyes and its jaw worked as if it had not been used in years.

“The first vehicle, fifty meters west,” it gurgled, “center console.”

Growing more and more suspicious of his surroundings the creature snuck forward to the foremost vehicle and, surprisingly, among the least damaged of the vehicles, even though its wheels popped off and its windows were all shattered. It was not merely mangled enough to not be recognized as the armored vehicle that it used to be. Its insides glowed a faint orange, but fire was never one to keep him from his prize. Swain snuck forwards clambering up the passenger side door and felt inside for the glove compartment.
Hidden 6 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by apathy


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Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Xanathan Territories

"Just keep calm and quiet and nobody will know we're here," the voice spoke from beneath the vehicle thad had been hastily covered in whatever brush was available. Its source was an older gentleman, much smaller in stature than his companion; a garishly attired mzungu. The scent alone of her perfume had ridden the mid-day breeze for miles and had been one of many variables of the past 14 she could not have possibly accounted for. All her planning; ruined in moments. But how could she rush the separation of a family; if even for just days?

The Lioness slipped out from her perch amongst the boughs and landed inaudibly behind the vehicle. She paused and cocked her head towards the distant chop of helicopter rotors. She had little time to act before the opposition's forces swelled and began its onslaught against anyone within 100km of her fuck up. But she could fix it; even as she saw the old Lion, stone-faced but eyes gleaming with laughter. Father always said plans were just a list of things that never came together. He was right; most of the time.

Clenching the edge of the jeep's rear chassis, she lifted the vehicle with ease and smiled down at the supine pair. "Not quiet enough, but do keep calm," she chuckled self-consciously at her use of English before continuing, "Now come on out from there. We don't have much time." Lowering the jeep, the Lioness quickly took in what little details she had missed while observing them previously. The man was old but seemed in good health; the older woman reeked of perfume and plastics.

The Lioness turned to the old man and she quickly riffed through a few languages until they settled on Xhosa.

"Now, the following is going to be very confusing but if we are to survive you're going to have to trust me. An easy request of me to make; far easier than the reality of what is going to happen. In minutes more of Xanathan's wasps will be in the air and boots will be quick to follow. They won't care how rich this one is," she gestured to the older woman who had just noticed the smear of mud down the center of her pristine suit, "and they definitely won't care about us. Odds are they pinged this jeep when they passed. I'm sorry, but there might not be anything for you to return to." The Lioness laid a heavy hand on the diminutive man's shoulder. "But I have a way out. You're just going to have to do something for me."

Ndakala was not one to refuse help when offered, although this one came with an extraordinarily ominous tone. In Xhosa, he replied, "We are grateful for any help you have to offer. Our destination is the village of Phalaborwa. Can you help us get there?" The Lioness shook her head gravely in response. "Very well. The old woman will be a problem at some point, but for now I think she'll cooperate. Once the danger has passed and the shock wanes, she'll try to assert her privilege."

She chuckled at the old man's honesty and gave him a second, more genial pat on the shoulder. "That is their way."

Moving away from the group, she strode over to some brush nestled beneath a fever tree and knelt. After a few hushed words she returned leading a small child by the hand, covered in grime. The girl shivered with cold and exhaustion as she was set in the rear of the jeep. The Lioness removed the remains of her dress; tattered and singed from earlier in the night; and did her best to warm the child. Removing the crystal that hung from her neck, she whispered to it in a language unfamiliar to the others then proceeded to plunge it into the soil with a burying blow. Almost immediately the earth began to churn and a crude tunnel took form in front of the vehicle.

"Don't stop driving, just follow the tunnel until someone meets you. No harm will come to you this or any other night. But you must be quick." The jeep's engine silently turned over and began to crawl forward as its headlights struggled to illuminate the tunnel's depths. The Lioness stood silhouetted against the night sky as she called out to the group; the echo of her voice quickly fading. "Thank you for this. I, Najwa Moghadani, am in your debt."

Najwa turned and sprinted down a second opening that had appeared as the first began to crumble, leaving nothing but loose soil seconds after their disappearing underground.


300km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)

<< Lamda-5, Lamda-5, do you copy?! This is Jagter-Actual! We are under attack! Jagter-0 is down! The fucking tank is down! Is anyone fucking listening? >>

Lt. Smit slammed the receiver into its cradle as static was the only response to his increasing panic. The lieutenant struggled to make sense of the carnage that surrounded him. He knelt behind the hard cover of the command vehicle as a gunner fired the coaxial MG into the treeline, doing his best imitation of a chainsaw. This wasn't the fighting he'd grown used to. Even the most organized of the rebels he'd encountered in his ten years of service had never brought a full convoy to an explosive halt.

Smit had watched with mouth agape as the main gun of Jagter-O erupted as an unspent HE shell traveled down its length; the rippling vapor of the heat from the blast had destroyed most of the tank after it withstood whatever initial blasts had crippled nearly every vehicle and sent an armored personnel carrier skyward. He peered at the monitor embedded into the forearm of his prosthetic but whatever was disrupting his communications was also interfering with much of their equipment.

Fitting a 40mm grenade into the tube mounted beneath the barrel of his weapon; Smit fired the projectile in a deadly parabolic arc into the treeline where the gunner was focused. Turning to give his man a reassuring thumbs up, the lieutenant felt the warmth drain from his being as the gunner's body twisted crudely; a broken marionette in the hands of a sadistic puppeteer. Blood flowed from the man's mouth as his brain struggled to process its new reality...


Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Xanathan Territories

There was little sound in the tunnel beyond the rapid patter of sprinting feet and the Lioness' breaths; deep and even inhalations of a highly-tuned machine which moved towards the small village that bordered the larger town of Phalaborwa. If she'd acted with enough time, she might be able to evacuate the village before the onslaught started. If she hadn't, well- she would deal with what would come when it did.


300km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)

A heavy cloud of dust hung over the remains of the convoy, obscuring the devastation that had taken little more than a quarter of an hour to create. With a simple gesture, Mshale cleared the battlefield as he hovered high above, embraced by the moonlight's glow. He took in the carnage with a degree of pleasure he seldom felt during his recent years of peacekeeping. These wazungu were demons and would soon learn there time on this soil was coming to an end. He had begun his descent when he saw movement once more amongst the wreckage and readied to exterminate one more Xanathan wardog when curiosity stayed his hand.

The scrambling and emaciated form had finished its perverted rites on one of the recent corpses and scuttled over to the mobile laboratory in desparate search of something. Mshale landed where the creature had entered and extended his will inwards as a cocoon of telepathic pressure enveloped the hobbled form and withdrew it from the laboratory like a snail plucked from its shell.

Mshale spat as he took in the full extent of the creature's corruption and kept it steady in his grasp. "What have you become, mazungu?"
Hidden 4 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by apathy


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Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Xanathan Territories

<< Atlas, Atlas this is Hornet-Actual. Standby for report 2-2. Over.>>
<< Hornet-Actual, this is Atlas. Send your traffic, over. >>
<< Atlas, this is Hornet 2-2. We are in Sector 3755. Gunner up and scanning with thermals. >>

The data being fed into the gunner's visual cortex from the cameras affixed to 2-2's hull was an achromatic panorama. White flames rose from an overturned jeep and danced against an atramentous backdrop. A sickening gradient of grays trickled through the carnage and thickened as blood mixed with soil loosened by the helicopter's blades.

<< Line Eduard, line Dirk showing Hond squad's immobilized ground vehicles. Biometrics register heavy casualties; requesting evac for wounded. Negative visual on enemy element. Requesting further orders; how copy? >>

The squadron of four heavily-modified helicopters that made up Xanathan's elite Hornets circled high above the smoking husks of the convoy below. Each manned by a pair of cybernetically-enhanced soldiers integrated into the Hornet's operations and weapons systems. Through an infrared haze their sensors continued to search for further signs of the perpetrators. Silence overtook their comms awaiting a response from XSF military command.

<< Roger 2-2, Atlas copies all. Proceed to Sector 3700. Rules of engagement have been modified. Support local detachment in suppressing hostile element. Atlas out >>

With a thought, the Hornets broke formation and veered off towards the neighboring village of Phalaborwa; a half-hour away by air. Its population had swelled since the diaspora and the town proper now found itself encroached upon on all sides by a mass of corrugated sheet-metal in the form of shanties and impromptu markets. Orchards of orange trees on Phalaborwa's outskirts shuddered at the Hornets passing. They approached the small detachment of XSF guards at the relay tower that dwarfed all around it. An array of advanced sensors kept the populace under constant surveillance, monitoring their whereabouts amongst other nefarious criterion. The leader of the squadron, designated Hornet-Actual, attempted to establish a link with the tower's local biometric monitoring system as they were hailed on communications.

<< Tower Pieter-0, this is Hornet 1-2. Requesting sitrep. We have orders to engage enemy foot mobiles in area. >>

Hornet-Actual felt a tension rising behind the cold implants embedded into his eye-sockets as the network was as slow to respond as the ground force. The sudden writhing of crimson plasma against a greyscale world sent Hornet-Actual and his aircraft into paroxysms as the panicked cries of an altitude alarm fell on deaf ears.

**Remote access to the local network denied**
**System override.**

<< Atlas, tower Pieter-0 is compromised. I repeat, tower is compromised. >>

Caught in the throes of a violent stroke, Hornet-Actual felt his consciousness drowning in the onslaught of information relayed as sensory input. It would have taken weeks to process a modicum of the torrent; but only seconds to impact against the tower. The three remaining Hornets tore away from the explosion and lunged headlong in opposing directions. They traversed in wide arcs above Phalaborwa as the concussive percussion of 30mm chainguns firing 650 rounds per minute pierced the sky. The township quavered in the wake of the sudden destruction; memories buried beneath smoldering rubble in an instant.

From a distance Najwa peered through the latticed prisms that shielded the town hall's interior. In her perch she saw heat trails with absolute clarity as each round tore through the air in an outraged buzz. The rounds had a secondary incendiary element and within minutes only the district of Old Phalaborwa remained relatively untouched. She adjusted the straps of a pilfered ballistics vest, amazed at the composure with which the few operatives they'd embedded had mobilized the citizenry. At least half the town was now being evacuated through tunnels that had appeared while Najwa neutralized the small contingent that guarded the relay tower.

A voice, soft against the garbled interference of encrypted channels, rose from a bloodied handheld transceiver that lay propped up against an H&K G36 beside her (all graciously provided by Xanathan).

<< Kengue, incoming. >>

Najwa switched the transceiver off and shouldered the rifle as the familiar rasp of Kengue greeted her from behind.

"Sis, this.. is bad. Boss says.. we have to go.. before they kill us.. for being madzviti." Kengue spoke through labored breaths, the rattle of his respirator heard with each pause.

Najwa knew that if Ayanda had sent him to the frontlines, things were not well. He was barely into his sixteenth summer; gaunt features hidden beneath a hodgepodge of foreign clothing. She gave him a quick hug before looking gravely into his obscured eyes.

"I can't just leave them to be slaughtered," she gestured to the huddled group of townsfolk, "and she knows that. It's my duty to protect them. Those madhimoni are here because of me."

Kengue laughed and playfully pushed Najwa away. He looked up at her and removed his sunglasses, doing his best to imitate the look she just gave.

"Boss.. figured.. you'd say that," he paused to regulate his breaths before continuing, "and wants you.. all... back at base."

Najwa smirked at Kengue before she gave a sharp whistle and a rallying yell. "Everyone, we're leaving!"

She then turned to her young companion and inquired if he'd made contact with the pair she'd entrusted with the child.

"Of.. course," he smiled mischievously, "can't.. wait for.. the Lion.. to meet.. the american."


80km W of Saudade, Glasslands (formerly Tripoli, Libya)

Nuberu sat at the precipice of a brobdingnagian chasm; one of legion created in the aftermath of nuclear holocaust. Within its abyssal depths bubbled malice and sorrow ineffable. He felt an atomic patina spread over the exposed flesh of his face and forearms; it renewed him. Weeks since his last meal, life was nearly impossible to find in the wastes. The land sustained him, but peeled away his humanity with each passing hour.

A plume of noxious fumes and scouring detritus erupted before Nuberu as violent gales tore through the gulch.The brief respite in the nigh-perpetual tempest that had swept across the region for thirty years had ended. Covering himself once more in thick hides, he set out for the remnants of an old Ottoman fort across the expanse. A flash of lightning in the distance and once more did Nuberu set eyes upon the phantasmagoric vista of Saudade eerily framed by preternatural effulgence.
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New Xanathan City (formerly Cape Town, South Africa)

Dark clouds roiled high above the Stormkaap, obscuring the early morning's sun. Markus observed a heavy mist accumulating on the elevator's paned walls, and as he stepped out of the building he was met with an oppressive discomfort. For him, the torrent had already arrived.

His driver, Jakob, opened the rear passenger door of the Mercedes AMG G 63. Markus paused and peered over his shoulder at but a fraction of one man's insecurities; Xanathan Tower gleamed against blackened skies with each flash of lightning. No refuge to be found here.

The drive would take the better part of an hour as Jakob began the long descent down winding roads and through tunnels carved deep into Tafelberg. Their destination was the Kluis, and perhaps an answer to what eluded Markus.

Almost no light filtered into the cabin as Markus sat with his thoughts. Gravel softly popped beneath heavy tires; all sounds took on a muted aspect through the armored jeep's reinforced frame and inch-thick ballistics glass.

He shot a glance at the stack of field reports, intelligence dossiers and tablet settled in the seat beside him. Exhilaration and apprehension stirred within Markus as he reflected on the scope of the previous night's attacks. This was resistance unlike any met since the arrival of Xanathan. How could such a powerful foe remain hidden for so long? What was their goal? Were there other threats to Xanathan's sovereignty, accruing strength in putrescent wilds?

Emotion usurps willpower.

Markus closed his eyes and focused on his breathing; dispelling all doubt as he withdrew into the depths of his consciousness. He sank past the constraints of perception and into a realm of intuition.

Gruesome images fluttered across the nebulous haze of his mindscape; bodies twisted and charred by an enemy unknown. Ferocity. Could vengeance be their cause?

Evidence of the evacuation of nearly 10,000 dissidents as a town burned. Compassion. An obvious weakness.

The infiltration of a highly-guarded research facility. Ingenuity; or treachery. The truth would be revealed in due time.

"Five minutes, sir."

Heavy lids separated as his gaze fixed on the driver through his reflection in the rearview mirror. Markus gave the driver a curt nod before turning his attention to a locus of Xanathan's cutting-edge research.

Die Kluis, or the Vault, sat in the shadow of Devil's Peak. They drove past heavily guarded gates into an open courtyard that bustled with commotion. A group of hooded prisoners, chained together, were corralled into a transport vehicle. Researchers in pristine coats took inventory of chattel and equipment as rain swept in from the bay.

The jeep turned and continued uphill, driving further into the compound until stopping before an austere building adorned with marble pillars. He recalled this had been a university prior to Xanathan's arrival.

Markus stepped out of the jeep and was immediately met by a squat man in an XSF uniform. He gave a brief salute before extending a hand, the other bearing an umbrella that struggled in its purpose.

"General, I'm Sgt. Theron. I've been assigned to lead the response team you've assembled."

Thank you, Sgt Have they arrived? the response echoed in Theron's mind.

"Not yet, sir. Delayed by the storm. We expect them within the hour."

I see. Notify me when they arrive. Dismissed.

The exchange lasted their ascent up the steps and past the rain-streaked columns of the command center.
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Shock gripped Ndakala and, to a far greater extent, the delicate sensibilities of the lady in white, although her pristine linen garments were now an ochre-tinged memory. He, meanwhile, found respite, briefly, in his ancestors’ native tongue. How the determined young woman knew it—amongst an abundance of other languages that dripped from her tongue as drops off a boaboa tree after a monsoon, several of which he was certain died with their last speakers a generation ago—was, to him, a riddle not well-suited to a solution. Najwa Moghadani’s linguistic artistry aside, he was not prepared for what followed whence he sat in the driver’s seat of the jeep, started the engine, and pressed down on the accelerator—neither was his captive, Lydia Benson. No, we are both refugees of fate, he justified as guilt hung in his chest, its intensity inflected more sharply in recognition of the deception he undertook.

This is necessary to our survival.

Was it, really, though? Half-thought, the malformed question cast a shadow on the wall of his mind. Why should he believe anything the wild girl—a stranger—said? Because she put him at ease by speaking Xhosa? Xanathan would have to conclude they were harmless passersby,; Lydia Benson alone on her name recognition as an interfering philanthropist.

Still, there were the rumors. No, not just rumors. Reports from those he trusted. Images seen by his own eyes.

When they felt the situation called for it, Xanathan were brutal.

Ndakala’s mind drifted a moment to the XSF convoy and he knew, without a doubt, that whoever did it were just as brutal; moreover, he sensed this young woman was somehow involved.

“Fate guide us safely on our journey,” he recited, decision made.

The jeep lurched forward and, inexplicably, downward. The ground gave way beneath them, not with violence, but as easily as one succumbs to water having given up their last breath. Darkness enveloped them, and he clicked on the lights. They were filthy, coated in dust from the hours driving across sun-hardened savanna and rocky terrain, but nevertheless served their purpose. The tunnel around him illuminated, he drove in grim silence without taking even a moment to glance at his passenger—still in shock, although her breathing was less frenetic as time went on—lest some momentary lapse in attention result in his personal peril.

An hour later, the harsh glint of the afternoon sun stung his eyes as jeep emerged from the unnatural tunnel and into the midst of a strange compound. Armed guards were standing at the ready, waiting for him. Young men with eyes that were older than they ought. The eyes of those who were prepared to kill. The only reasonable thing to do was cut the engine.

“Miss Benson, this is the end of the road for now.”

“This isn’t Phalaborwa,” she protested, but it was a defeated type of whine, a sighed exclamation wherein she recognized she would not make it to where she wanted to go, at least, not on a timeline of her choosing.
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Free Territories (formerly Mozambique)

خفض أسلحتك

The command belched from behind the armed youth, followed by a hacking cough. Their weapons lowered as an elderly man passed between their ranks and stopped in front of the jeep. He was dressed in worn fatigues; drab ochre saturated in mid-day sweat. A shock of gray peeked out from beneath his cap contrasted starkly against his skin.

The old face cracked into a smile as scars carved deep channels into the weathered fields of his cheeks. He turned back to his armed guards and made a waving gesture with a wood-carved prosthetic.

الشباب ، تعال هنا

A girl, no older than 16, joined the old man's side. She laid her AK-M on the vehicle's hood, casting a curious glance in her periphery at Ndakala while rapidly exchanging words like gunfire in Arabic. Ndakala noted a wave of ease pass over the group as shoulders relaxed and sharp eyes softened. The girl addressed the pygmy in Xhosa, occasionally pausing as she struggled to translate her commander's message. 

"Our general is most.. a-apologetic for this introduction. There is no place for.. violence amongst friends." The old man gave her a reassuring pat and she continued. "We would have you join us as guests."

At this the old man circled the jeep as he  spoke through his companion. He stopped at the child caught in fitful sleep, clutching charred rags. He extended the cool wood of his prosthetic, soothing her slumber with a comforting touch.

"Has the child spoken?"

Ndakala peered over his shoulder at the child, eyes widening at the sudden recollection of her presence. The silence of their journey coupled with the recent carnage fresh in his mind had left him deeply troubled, but his wits quickly returned. "She has not. None of us have."

"And the one who charged you with this responsibility. Were they injured?" He opened the driver side door before politely stepping aside for Ndakala to exit.

The pygmy dismounted the vehicle cautiously, unsure of the old man's intentions. "Not that I noticed. Everything happened so quickly."

Satisfied, the old man extended his prosthetic to the pygmy in a gesture of good faith. The wood flushed with warmth; the digits animate with life firmly gripping flesh. He grinned broadly, addressing Ndakala and the elderly foreigner in English.

"Welcome, welcome. I am General Assad. We have quite the drive ahead of us, so let's make haste. My soldiers will confiscate your electronics. No need to leave those wardogs a trail." His soldiers spurred to action, they began the task of loading equipment while one scurried beneath the jeep. He emerged with the components of a GPS in his hands.

Assad sat behind the wheel of the jeep, looking back at Ndakala until he too entered the vehicle. They exited the compound, an abandoned military blockade, and turned on to a wide road hidden beneath thick canopy. The roar of a diesel engine surprised Ndakala; he hadn't heard one since childhood. An antiquated military transport rumbled behind the silent jeep. Their path followed a river southwards; the occasional thinning of the trees bathing them in shimmering brilliance.

After nearly an hour, Assad began to speak once more. His passengers were unsure if it was to them or himself. They had just crossed the river on an unusual stone bridge; it seemed to have risen from the very soil. The river's rushing echoed through a bizzare congregation of overgrown boulders.

"Some thousand years ago, this was the site of a great community. Khoikhoi and Sān tribes found themselves pushed to the south by drought and Bantu expansion. The former brought their mighty herds to graze these fertile lands; the latter using their advanced foraging and survival skills to supplement the livestock."

Assad turned away from the river, driving further into the jungle. He checked his watch, a pre-war novelty.

"They were the foundation of mighty kingdoms, all born from this great land. My friends, we wish to do the same."

Before them appeared a distortion in the road; a rippling haze that obscured what lay beyond. They continued through, much to the old american's chagrin. The rumble of the diesel engine echoed in a vast chamber before being cut off. Sunlight filtered through countless prisms in the cavernous ceiling, illuminating an expansive garage and loading bay underground.

"Welcome to Marange."
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While not the strangest African settlement known to Ndakala, Marange certainly struck him as the most spiritual. There was a oneness with the land here that tightened the bond of his soul to the blood of his ancestors. Perhaps it was some ambient psychic resonance of the crystals in the cavern ceiling, but he certainly felt more belonging here in a place hitherto unknown than in the monotonously familiar Aldi at Cape Town.

In addition to his connection to the soil, there was an abundance of individuals whose possessed, in his view, capabilities beyond those belied by a casual glance. How else would dirt and stone deftly morph into tunnels before his very eyes? Certainly, given what was before him, they lacked technological means to do so, thus their capabilities emerged from elsewhere. Moreover, the array of stone, metal, and fiber structures that loomed around him were clearly the product of imagination, not tools, not efficiency. That unsettled him far more than the vast amount of weaponry, most of it, he deduced by a brief survey of what was on proud display round about, pilfered from Xanathan, but some acquired through illicit trade.

“Thank you for your hospitality, General Assad,” Ndakala said with deferential caution.

His pretense of respect was dispelled by an acerbic chirp from the American woman, “A hot meal would be hospitable.”

Appalled, particularly by how unimpressed she seemed by the environ, he was nevertheless use to such behavior from foreigners, and interjected, “Miss Benson means she is grateful for the safety you provided. Were it not for you, Xanathan soldiers would have filled our bodies with bullets.”

Assad nodded sympathetically then frowned. It seemed as if guilt momentarily etched finely into the lines around his eyes. In a measured voice, he replied in Xhosa, “I fear that, were it not for us, there would not have been danger for you to be in.” That said, his eased the jeep to a stop in front of a large structure built into the cavern wall, a protrusion of metal sculpted in the likeness of a close forest path comfortably illuminated by celadon photoluminescence. There, he switched to English, “You will be well looked after, I assure you, but for the moment I must leave you two here in the care of another.”

He pointed to the opening.

Ndakala helped himself and the lady out of their transportation, which by then they were weary of. It felt good to stretch again. Miraculously, despite the many hours between here and Johannesburg, the lady’s parcel remained with her and undamaged—it was, after all, the same jeep in which they initially departed. On it was a cross that indicated medical supplies. What did she say it contained—vaccines? No doubt useful.

“Makemba!” shouted Assad, then drove away without waiting for a response. He took their vehicle with him, but without opportunity or will to complain, Ndakala merely sighed while Lydia clutched wrapped her arms around herself in fearful irritation. Soon, a woman materialized in the archway and gestured with flour-covered hands for them to come inside.

“Welcome,” Makemba warmly brought them into a room with a cozy fireplace girded by several chairs. “What brings you to Marange?”

Lydia sat down and moaned, “Fate! Terrible fate! I was at the seaport in Cape Town awaiting my journey home when all world travel was suddenly suspended. I heard over the radio in the executive lounge that Spain was gone—how does a country go missing? With no way off this accursed continent until God knows when, I decided to extend my trip and visit the children in Phalaborwa my charity provides for when we came across the most dreadful carnage on the road. I don’t want to think about the rest—it is all so horrid.”
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58km W of Saudade (formerly Tripoli, Libya)

Dusk has settled when the Qandiisa makes its way to the pond. It cautiously moves towards the water's edge, surveying its surroundings before mandibles separate, revealing an extending proboscis. Hungry after a day's foraging only reaped a few seeds, it drinks deeply from the murk. Dorsal quills bristled subtly, from annoyance or at the cold was unknown. Demonstrably cunning, their intelligence was an indeterminate factor. Nuberu watched silently from atop the remnants of a nearby petrol station as the Qandiisa scraped its forehooves into the loam, searching for nutrient-rich utsi larva.

With bated breath, Nuberu took up the length of rebar he'd crafted into a spear with the majority of his strength. He coiled filament around its end several times before fusing the two together with a tightened grasp. Rising, he steadies himself as eyes zero in on the six-limbed ungulate.


Nuberu shifts his weight forward, hips turning with his motion and increasing the amount of force generated as his shoulder and arm extend. The ersatz spear sailed through the air and pierced concrete several feet to the right of his intended target. Showered in dust and debris, the Qandiisa bolts up the slope of the drainage canal and into the night.

50km W of Saudade

All around Nuberu the early morning clicks and calls of new creatures are drowned out by growing winds. The air heavy with geosmin and decay, he continues in an exhausted fugue.

He shuffles between spires of prismatic glass, outspread stalks heavy with pulsating bulbs of luminous lichen. Certain the sound of laughter is carried on the creeping storm's headwind, Nuberu's steps falter and he tumbles. Laughter distorts into taunts and in his stupor his wounds go unnoticed. Momentarily.

Supine on the slope of a sandy pit, the heavy hides he wears cling to a deep gash in his abdomen. With a grimace he separates the furs, slick with sickly chartreuse from ashen flesh. The culprit, a chitinous barb nearly 30cm in length. Trembling hands grip bone and his world spins. With a wrench it's dislodged. Bile splatters to the ground. He refuses to make this his grave.

Nuberu presses a palm against his side and thrashes in agony as a throbbing glow cauterizes the wound. He begins his ascent when a furrow forms in the grimhollow's depths, and in the displaced sediment rows of chiming chelicerae are revealed. A pellucid arthropod erupts with the sound of faint music, roused by anguished thrashing. Crystal cracks as it clambers upwards, intent on making Nuberu its next meal.

Leaden limbs struggle in vain to raise him out of the pit while he slides further towards death. Time slows to a crawl. Nuberu closes his eyes and ceases attempting to escape, resigned to his fate. Fingers clench in frustration when he feels it; the calming nostalgia of his previous life manifest in an unadorned tantalum ring. With strengthened resolve, Nuberu musters every iota of vigor left to him. He envisions strength draining from every cell, pooling in a deep crater within.

A shrill hum rattles his core as Nuberu is overshadowed; the grimhollow is upon him when it is unexpectedly and explosively repelled. Nuberu's left eye is scorched to the bone, and from its hollow came a fading green glow. He is covered in pungent ichor and tarry debris when darkness descends.


Nuberu looks out as thick fog crept inland, preceding coastal storms. It blankets the graveyard Tripoli has become, obscuring its dangers from his vision. He adjusts the bandage covering his left eye and ruminates; all-in-all an eye in exchange for his life isn't the worst outcome.

When he awoke days ago he'd found most of the grimhollow to be inedible, but stomached what little he could. With renewed vigor, Nuberu completed his trek and established himself in the gutted remains of an air traffic tower.

Turning away from the observation deck, he lifts a broad blade and returns to the task of butchering the pair of large lizards he'd ensnared the night before. Nuberu ignites a small fire, fanning the flames absently as he admires the makeshift grill his meal laid upon.

Satisfied, he reclines on his furs with a wince. The pain from his side had dulled to a manageable level within the last day. Inspecting the wound, he is alarmed at the change in his physiology. The skin around the puncture has darkened to a matte obsidian and began to show signs of calcification. If he strained his good eye, Nuberu swore he could see the start of striations. He dozes while fat spills from the roasting carcass with a sizzle.

Nuberu awakens with an oppressive sensation of apprehension. With a grunt he pushes himself up and looks out over the necropolis for the source of his foreboding. He sees nothing but the same; remnants of a rich history buried beneath maleficent miasma.

All seems calm, he thinks to himself. Yet why is this feeling growing?

Nuberu looks past the city and into the Mediterranean. It was then that he saw the root of his concern; a beam composed of energies terrifying in frequency. He was frozen in awe at the whorl of particles left in the beam's wake as it descended beyond the horizon. And for the first time in over three decades, a blast of air from across the sea flowed inland.

Nuberu watched on as coastal waters began to churn in ever-growing fury. The mists that had clung to Saudade for so long began to dissipate, pulled out to sea. His mind reeled at the horrors slowly revealed. They slithered and shambled and crept towards freedom.

He scrambles to gather his things, stuffing as much food into his mouth as he can. Nuberu is in the process of pulling on his furs when the earth cracks with ire unimaginable. He struggles to maintain balance while the tower groans.

What is that roar...?

He feels the answer before it dawns on him. Nuberu reaches the air traffic tower's stairs as the tsunami becomes visible. A few seconds more and it's greedily devouring the shattered skyline. Crashing through an exit, he removes a small crystal located deep within his satchel and hastily buries it.

Nuberu hopes she hears his message.
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