Friday, August 24, 2012

ICP4: S1.E01.3



When the first hot drop hit his face, he flinched in surprise as it burned him and brushed it from his cheek before it had the chance to run down it at all. He then ventured a brief glance up at the clouds, so heavy with snow that they sagged below the tops of the massive factory cranes to either side. The second drop hit his nose and he brushed it off just as quickly, turning his face down and lowering the brim of his hat. He pulled his weathered gloves a bit farther onto his wrists, the greyish cards dangling from his coat sleeves – three each – clattered together like cardboard wind-chimes. Then the drops fell a bit faster, and the men around him began to shuffle and close up their own clothes to keep the scalding raindrops from working their way in.

The policemen-soldiers had moved concrete partitions into the spaces between the parked vans, using both to form a solid wall that fully blocked all lanes of the highway. Their riot shields were propped against the wall, ready to be heaved into place above it to form the upper half of a taller wall, one that they would move and fluctuate as they needed it to. It looked a bit as though they'd carved a trench from concrete and plastic, an archery pit where knights in suits of black silicon carbide and canvas armor would fire bolts of lead and metal and ballistics, slugs with exploding arrowheads, at an oncoming enemy.

By now the Magicians would be dead, Foundation knew. They wouldn't be able to fight Famine, and could never keep a thing like him confused for long. The original plan had been to have them confront Famine alongside the advance unit, but Famine had surprised him with its ferocity. The advance unit had made contact too soon and it had taken less than five minutes for them to be thoroughly dismantled, completely obliterated, and Famine hadn't even set fire to the city. Not that it meant anything; maybe Famine was just in a more focused mindset than in the few instances the Project had observed it in the past.

A man began to boil off to the right, and Foundation turned his head slowly to watch. The riot gear was melting into a slick black form and the skin turned red and sagged; bones began to bend and a pungent steam poured from expanding holes in the man's body. Foundation looked away and directed his eyes back in the direction that Famine would come, even as the boiling man began to emit plumes of flame and a sick, searing gurgle that somehow held a tone of terror and dismay. Nothing at all like any nightmare he'd ever dream, but maybe in the next few weeks he'd dream it plenty, if he survived this. Monument seemed to think he would not. Whatever calculations there were seemed to conclude precisely with the demise of himself and all whom he led.

The man on his right was some cross between a puddle of molten gore and a pile of warped equipment, when the man on Foundation's left began the same process of break down. It went faster this time; either Famine was getting closer or he was simply growing impatient; the two were not mutually exclusive. A tarp was thrown over the mess of a man to his right and a policeman-soldier moved to fill the spot of the fallen. If Famine wanted to, he could probably do away with them all like this, one at a time. But Foundation was banking on the fact that the beast was not that patient. There was an objective he was on his way to achieve, and there was also a window of opportunity that would be closing.

The scalding drops began to fall faster now, a soft pattering sound sitting like static behind the hissing and bubbling of the melting man. Each drop steamed violently as it hit the ground and vanished in an instant, leaving the pavement dry. This snowfall would have been beautiful on any other night, but Famine was melting the flakes before the even left the clouds. Foundation crouched and touched the road; even through his gloved hand he could feel the heat. He glanced about and saw the tires of the vans had begun to look wet and bloated, melting slowly and being pushed outward by the air pressure they held within. The riot shields had begun to bend under their own weight.

One policeman-soldier took the plastic face-guard off the front of his helmet and cast it aside, the thing having warped to the point of interfering with his sight. His skin had turned red like he'd put his face into a fire. The air was drying out, and their eyes were starting to sting. There was a burning sensation in their lungs with every breath. There were convection currents on the face of the highway, making it look like water, like the gray mask of a limitless deep. There was a blanket of weight and despair upon them. There was the tensing of muscles confused by the heat. There was the determination to blood and there was the instinct to flee. There was fear and fury, and finally there was Famine.

The beast stood a hundred yards away, easily nine feet high and stark black from head to toe. Unnaturally lean, it's neck was strangely tall; its chest seemed empty of organs, room for naught but ribs and spine. Its shoulders were sharp. Its arms hung long, down below the knees of its legs. Its elbows were maybe three inches in diameter, its wrists almost nonexistent, its hands and feet gruesomely oversized and clawed. It stood with an unnatural lean, its center of gravity off to one side so that the only thing holding it up were the claws of its feet digging into the pavement and the tautness of its improbable body. And there it stood, just stood.

And Foundation felt its eyes on him.

He narrowed his own eyes at thing, an expression of disappointment, and gave the silent order, “Bury him in bullets.” The policeman-soldiers responded without hesitation, with ferocity that said they had been desperate to fire, and the blazing weapons sent a furious led storm in the direction of the beast. The sounds of gunfire rang oddly in the heated air, and refused to echo. They were hollow and soulless, short lived like a flash of lightning with no thunder behind.

Famine took the hits, each bullet colliding against his body not even making him flinch. He took them like an impenetrable mountain, like he barely noticed he was being hit. Each time he was struck, there would flare on his body an angry red flash, as the flick of fire and magma behind chilling igneous formations. These red streaks faded slowly, and the ferocity of that flame soon populated his body enough that there was the unexpected definition of muscle and joints, horribly thin-stretched tendons. And soon, his face; two eyes without pupils or expression, and the simple crease of a line like a mannequin's smile stretching from one nonexistent ear to the other, a swath of supernatural glee across his face.

There was a pulse on the air, and then a sudden wave of force ripped out of Famine's body in all directions. When it hit Foundation and his men, all of the gunfire stopped, and they all stumbled a few paces back; they were burned inside and out, cooked like meat to a fine medium-rare, and Foundation felt that if it had lasted any more than the instant it had, he would've been dead. The tires of the vans exploded loudly, and their metal forms fell to the road, pack animals with broken legs. All of the men righted themselves as quickly as they could, intending to continue their attack on the monster. But they were stilled when the saw Famine standing, unmoved, with molten metal and led running off his body. He stood in a puddle of melted bullets, the red gashes of anger fading, the smile and the cold eyes turning black and invisible once more.

Foundation reached into his coat and took out a metal mask with transparent aluminum eyes, placing it over his face. He watched as Famine stood, watched as the beast did nothing.

And then finally, a voice like the roar of an inferno said, so coldly and without any hurry, “Are you going to play games with me like the last ones did?”

Yeah, the Magicians were dead. Foundation offered no reply.

“Agents of Project Four,” said the beast, “You are hereby ordered to disband and render yourselves dead in whatever way you prefer.”

At that Foundation smirked, though he ground his teeth a bit too. “And what authority do you have to issue orders?” He said it softly, but knew the monster heard him.

“Hm? Hm hm?” The voice sounded confused, “Oh, hm. Authority, what... Hm. Heh,” there was an unbidden laugh beneath its voice, “What? Yes, but I do, don't I? Because you're all dong exactly as I said, out here getting yourselves KILLED!” He ended in a roar and surged forward with speed that defied his size, tearing at the pavement with his claws to throw and pull and drag himself forward with all the strength he had in that unlikely body of his.

And all the while the waves of heat began to push out, as though with every beat of the beast's twisted heart. The policeman-soldiers began to fire their weapons, and to fight against the strength of the heat that was holding them back. They went for their riot shields but the plastic and metal things bent, ready to collapse in their hands. Famine's rasping breath, still carrying with it that laughter, filled their senses. And Famine was fast enough that he was in their midst, behind their barricades, in seconds.

Men burst into flames; Foundation didn't count how many. The familiar sound of a boiling human body found his ears. Foundation's face was protected by the metal mask he wore, so he could see the horror about him, and he harnessed the insanity of the situation to steel himself against it. The cards that hung from his sleeves shot out towards Famine, thin wire trailing behind them, and began to wrap themselves about the monster's limbs. With the heat roiling off Famine like it was, Foundation figured he probably had two or three minutes to live, as long as he could avoid bringing down Famine's direct attention.

But how was he supposed to that when he was the only person present both able and willing to hold Famine for any length of time?


Monument had taken one of the vans and driven the coward's route: away. He didn't try to pretend what he was doing was in any way courageous, because it was the opposite. It was wise. Some hundred or so meters outside of Famine's lethal aura, his comfort and the tires of the van were still intact. These things had value. Inside the van, outside the searing snow-turned-rain, he watched through the open side door and felt the balmy winter night on his face. The red light from burning men was glowing against his white body armor, turning its polished surface orange. He supposed his pallid face, his pale eyes, were taking on the color of death as well, as its air washed over him. The death slipped past him like warm oil, though, glistening and polishing but not burdening him. He had no weapon; he would not need it. As long as Monument did not give attention to Famine, he would be left alone. That was the rule that Famine had lay down decades past. It was his mercy.

Men like Foundation did not accept that mercy, though. They could not. It was- Unexpected file termination, unable to render further.

Running search for missing data ... Data not found. ... Repeating search. ... Data not found. ... Repeating search. ... Data not found. ... Repeating search. ... Data not found. ... Repeating search. ... Data not found. ... Repeating search. ... Data not found. ... Search timeout ... Search unsuccessful.

File S1.E01.4 does not exist.

Sending request to Fiction Machine:
DIRECTORY: |pRoj<Ec>T_</fo>uR|
file: S1.E01.4

Status: pending

... ...

Status: request recieved
File name: S1.E01.4 under construction
Input: plot-to-date -- Monument -- Famine -- Temporal

Update Code: 07.18

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