Thursday, July 18, 2013

ICP4: S1.E01.4

The beginning: S1.E01.1



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 mathematical, a predictable, common equation and at its end was the very refusal of peace. Famine's objective was quite a bit distant, if Monument's calculations regarding Marduk were any hint, so it would be easy to stay uninvolved. But while Monument sat aside, he had to wonder what was going to happen to Project Four in the future if its leader, the man called Foundation, got himself so uselessly killed?

There was a crackle in the van's speakers and then a voice spoke from them with professional, ignorant calm. "I've reached the indicated address by way of exit fourteen and completed a full inspection of the outside of the building." A report meant for Foundation, no doubt.

Monument stared at the old man's chess board with a neutral expression as he called up in his mind the layout of Jeru's infrastructure. Every road, partition and building was effortlessly laid out in Monuments mind. The highway circumnavigated the city in straight lines forming a hexagon with four tollways reaching inward towards the Blue Raven Club at its center and railways connecting the six points of the highway. Exit fourteen was on the eastern side of the city, between the airport and university. It was the same exit one took to get to Marduk's house. 

Therefore, Foundation had sent someone to check on Marduk. Therefore, though Foundation insisted Marduk was not the target, the scraggly man was indeed taking Monument's warnings seriously.

The voice in the radio continued, "There are a number of burns on the western lawn and the side of the building. I cannot identify any present cause, but the burns seem relatively fresh."

Monument made a face, averting his gaze briefly from the chess game, back towards the men shouting and dying on the highway. He watched Famine's claws tear clean threw a man's mask and skull, ripping ragged wounds which cauterized immediately. The man did not immediately die, but continued to fire his gun at shadows provided by his ruined brain for several seconds before he threw down his gun and began to flail at something only he could see. Mercifully, Famine returned to rip his chest open a few seconds later.

Returning his eyes to the chess board, he bent over it and adjust his coat over the ivory-colored body armor. The men outside, dying now, were just so many wasted assets. Foundation could not possibly stop Famine. So why die trying? Out of pride?

"It's warm," the man on the radio was saying, and then an edge of worry. "If I didn't know better I'd say Famine was getting close already."

Monument rose as much as he could in the van, and then made his way to the front passenger seat. He dropped sideways into the seat, next to the communications equipment, and took up the microphone loosely. Clicking a button on the side of it, he said, "Don't worry. Famine is here now. I need you to check on something for me."

There was a pause, and then the man said, "Who is this?"


"You aren't in my chain of command. Where is Foundation?"

"Dying," the man-child maintained an insultingly good-natured tone, "I'm the only one here right now. Do you know what to do and what to look for? No? Then listen to me."

Another lengthy pause, and then the voice crackled through, "Agreed. For now."

"Good. Now, find Marduk."


"I'm not going to fully explain," Monument tried not to bite. "That's Marduk's house you're at. Heartbeat, respiration, and other factors all indicate lifespan. Accordingly, Marduk is to die tonight. That's why you're there. It's probably why Famine's active and he seems to be heading in your direction. So. Find Marduk."

The man replied somewhat reluctantly, "Alright."

Monument put down the microphone and rose from the chair, turning back toward the open door. Someone was standing outside; someone he recognized. A brunette woman, flat-chested, tall and broad-shouldered as a man but slender of body and leg, adorned back and shoulder with a number of machines that shone dully pink in the light of the evening. She was transfixed watching the fight with Famine on the highway, drawn of expression, her hands and jaw hanging as limp as the black canvas duster she wore over her dark street clothes.

Frozen in surprise at her appearance, Monument stared at her for some moments before saying her name, "Gentry?" with accidental incredulity.

The woman's jaw snapped shut and her eyes whipped to the man-child, wide and broadcasting bewilderment.

"What are you doing here?" Monument moved forward, the strain in his voice unmistakble. This woman was one of the people Foundation had called the Magicians earlier, the group of people who were supposed to hold Famine after the advance unit was decimated. Famine's appearance on the highway had caused Monument to assume that the Magicians had been killed off.

There were a few seconds of pause as the woman's eyes snapped about, and then she said, "The Magicians don't die for the Project." Her voice was deep and many-layered. "We helped as a favor, but that's all. We disengaged Famine a few minutes ago. He went south as though avoiding this area."

Monument shook his head, "He came dead on out of the west, along the highway."

"He was nowhere near the highway when we left him, nor heading for it," She countered, "So either you're mistaken, which is not like you, or there is more than one Famine. Which is impossible."

"Not if he's using the Balance," Monument said, his brow knitting, something in his gut twisting. "But the rules of engagement say he can't expend that resource unless one of equal power is in play. So, unless Foundation is keeping secrets from me..."

"You're not formally part of the Project, are you?" she said, with the same insulting good-natured tone that Monument had been using on the soldier earlier, "Why would he tell you everything?"

Monument snapped his head back so violently that it smacked the roof of the van, and though he ducked away from the pain, his mind was more distracted by the situation, "Fuck! How am I supposed to calculate anything if I don't have all the variables?" In the next moment he turned and threw his hand through Foundation's chess game, scattering the peaces to the floor. "None of these matter anymore! And he doesn't know-"

"If you all are keeping secrets from one another," the woman interrupted him, "Then that's what's going to kill you. Unknowns are risky. You can count the Magicians out of this."

"Wait!" He spun on her, "Famine's still a mutual enemy! You have to get out there and make sure Foundation doesn't get killed!"

She laughed, and then vanished into a sroud of darkness right before his eyes. Shadows wrapped where her form had been for a moment, and he heard her say, "That's a joke, right? Cute little boy." And then even the shadows were gone.

"Wait!" He jumped from the van, and landed on the ground where she'd been, but there was nothing there anymore.

Turning his gaze on the fighting, his eyes shook, his white coat swayed in the warm air full of shouting and gunshots. If there was something in play worth Famine using the Balance to combat, then Foundation's actions did make sense. There was an ace somewhere in the Project's arsenal, but Foundation meant to use that ace on Famine itself, not on one of the duplicates the Balance could create. But Monument hadn't told Foundation that Famine possessed the Balance. Which meant that not only would Foundation's plans fail by design, but also that stopping this single monster -- obviously a duplicate -- wasn't protecting anyone. There would be another duplicate elsewhere.

It meant that Famine could already be at Marduk's place, and that Marduk could already be dead! All because of secrets Foundation and Monument had kept from one another.

The man-child vaulted back into the van, shut the door behind him, and rushed to the driver's seat. It was true that there was no stopping Famine. But duplicates created by the Balance might not count. He took the stick-shift in his thin digits and slammed it into first gear, his other hand reaching to the microphone to warn the soldier he'd been talking to earlier.


It was hot, and she was alone. Her voice wouldn't rise to call out, though she wanted desperately to scream out Marduk's or Eveline's names, and when she tried to work her jaw to make words, it felt like she was chewing around a piece of metal. Like an elderly woman, she hunched forward and leaned against the wall, shaking. Stepping over glass that cut painlessly into her feet, she hobbled out of the bathroom, and dragging her scalp over the wall left thin lines of blood as she went. Occasionally she paused to let lightning dance through her spine, but these fits passed, and she walked on.

She 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.E01.5 does not exist.

Sending request to Fiction Machine:
DIRECTORY: |pRoj<Ec>T_</fo>uR|
file: S1.E01.5

Status: pending

... ...

Status: request recieved
File name: S1.E01.5 under construction
Input: plot-to-date -- Monument - Foundation - Famine

Update Code: 07.21

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