Friday, October 30, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Thirty: Come find me

Covered from head to toe in dried and drying gore, Eve walked.

No. Correction: she ran. She ran, because she knew she might not return in time if she walked. She couldn’t be leisurely. She needed to go there.

Eve did not rest. She didn’t need to rest. Her body told her that if she rested, she might not get up again. There was no room to rest, not until she got there. Once she was there, she could rest all she liked, because that is where she’d decided she would die. She had to die there, because, really, there was nowhere else she could die, was there? Nowhere at all. It would be stupid to think of anywhere else.



yes, even that woman

i’m sorry for all the



am i?

should I be? 

i don’t know, daddy

i’m confused

but at the same time

i’m not

i’m not at all

Time passed. Eve marked the days by the movement of the sun and the moon, watching them track across the sky as she tore across the landscape. There was little to do besides running and eating, except, perhaps, to kill the things she would eat. She killed without preference or prejudice, eating in much the same manner: if she came across any sort of animal migration, she murdered every one of its members, then engorged herself on their remains before continuing her mad dash.

Eve didn’t know it, but through some natural instinct, most animals learned to avoid her, as if drawing on the experiences of their fallen kin from far away. She still found food each day, but there were more forced deviations from her one-minded track, more escapees driven by pure instinct. Eve could respect that. She still killed everything she met, but she respected their will to survive.

The Non had been merciless in their track across the Imperium, and so Eve met few intelligent forms of life. She destroyed only three villages: one a remote mountain town populated entirely by humans, the other two trading towns that had only just been repopulated by former inhabitants. No one lived. Eve held no respect for them, because they lacked instinct. They also all looked like that woman when she killed them.

that woman

she’s mommy

but she’s also that woman

it’s confusing

but it’s not

because even if i’m confused

i kill them anyway

so maybe

i just shouldn’t think about this anymore


i should just keep on killing

and find daddy

Though she never stopped, Eve watched the stars pass by every night. She let her body run on auto-pilot, avoiding obstacles on its own, as her chin tilted upward. She loved the stars. She’d always loved the stars. They were so bright and so simple. They were the only beautiful things she’d known that she could never kill, and she respected them for that, just as she respected the things that fell to her fists. The stars would never die, so far as she knew - or she, at least, would perish long before they ever did. She would always have stars to look at, so long as ragged breaths chugged in and out of her lungs.

By the time she reached the edge of the Imperium’s border with the Indy Plains, Eve was limping. She’d lost almost half of her blood, and many of her internal organs had failed entirely. Her muscles felt too hard and too thick, as if they were clogged with vital fluids, yet she drove them onward anyway. There was nothing else she could do. Her purpose was to move east, and she moved east.

She was going home. She was going home to die.

come find me, daddy

i know you’ll be there

you’ll come

you’ll come watch me die

and maybe

this time

we can go together

i think i’d like that



i love you


i finally want to show you that properly

so please

come find me, daddy

come find me

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Nine: Body count climbing

The Imperium’s final line of defence crumbled within fifteen minutes.

Eve was merciless. The first man, the man who had dared to wave at her, died as Eve separated his head from his shoulders with a casual swipe of her hand. His helmet clattered off to the side, striking a second soldier, and Eve made the subconscious decision to take him out next. He died with a hole in his armour the size of Eve’s fist. She needed a moment to shake him off of her arm, giving the third soldier a chance to stab Eve in the side with his spear.

The soldier didn’t take the chance. He was, apparently, flabbergasted. He died when Eve crushed him with the body of the second soldier.

Eve’s approach had always been to kill each opponent one-at-a-time, and now that her body and her instincts were in charge, that’s exactly what she did. The next soldier, a woman, died when Eve crushed her windpipe. Another, an amputee leaning against one of the remaining tanks, lost her life as Eve tipped the tank onto her. She then used the tank as a projectile to kill five more soldiers, a fact that saddened her a little. The more soldiers she killed in a single blow, the fewer opportunities she had to snuff people out one-by-one. Eve then made herself feel a little better by ripping out an officer’s throat, and she paused for half a second to watch the life drain out of his pale face.

To Eve, this process took hours. She revelled in every second of the assault, and not once, not once, did the bedraggled fighters of the Imperium manage to land a blow on her. This disappointed her, and made her eyes twitch even more violently than before. She looked like a madwoman when she decided to rip the thighs from an especially sumptuous orc and feast on his flesh, realizing as she did that she was voraciously hungry.

In the midst of the meal, Eve’s appendix burst. She ignored it. She didn’t need her appendix anyway. It was superfluous to her purposes.

The very few soldiers who managed to flee Eve’s onslaught retreated to the walls of Rodentia. The city, though far larger, reminded her of home. She wondered if her father was somewhere inside, maybe living in his one-room apartment with that woman. Eve didn’t like that woman, and she angrily grabbed the remains of a cannon and hurtled it at the city walls. Stone and masonry exploded as the cannon struck home.

That woman. She’d never liked Eve, so Eve didn’t like her. She would make that woman suffer. She would -


Eve staggered to one side, clutching her head. Her breathing came in ragged gasps, and red-green spittle dripped from her jaws. Her vision fluttered, and she touched her stomach, still grimy from the innards of the Nothing. She felt okay on the surface, but something rumbled inside her, something more vital than that stupid appendix, something that was leaking. Something that might stop her from doing her job.





That woman was, now, every man, woman, and child in the city of Rodentia. Eve spotted that woman peering out the front doors at her, letting more copies of that woman flee behind the relative safety of Rodentia’s crumbled entrance. Eve’s body decided to ignore the leaking in her gut as it launched her towards the entrance, howling, almost gibbering, fingers grasping to throttle that woman, and that man, and that person, and everyone, because it honestly didn’t matter a bit to her who they were.

Just so long as they weren’t him.

They weren’t daddy.

It took Eve considerably longer than fifteen to empty Rodentia of its citizenry, and she was much more efficient at it than the sloth who’d ruined the place previously. Where the sloth engaged in wanton destruction, Eve hunted. She cornered men in their homes, tore into women in their shops, cornered children in their beds. She could feel them, she could smell them, and none of them survived. None. Her gauntlets ran thick with their blood.

After four hours of continuous movement, Eve sprang another leak, somewhere in her guts. She wasn’t sure where. But, oh, daddy, how it hurt.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Eight: They all need to go daddy





The instincts dropped away for half a second, and as they did, Eve mentally gripped her own arms. She hurtled her daddy as far away from herself as she could, quashing, in the process, the urge to plunge her fist through his stomach. She knew she’d left a scar there before, and she didn’t want to scar him again. He landed somewhere in the distance, and though Eve wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead, she assumed he’d survived.





The instincts started to kick in again, and they impelled Eve towards the nearest target. She knew, despite how far she’d thrown him, that Dragomir was the nearest target. There was no debating that, no trying to reason otherwise, and with painful determination she forced her body to decide that he must be dead. He was already gone. There was no life to be drained from that floppy corpse.

Eve’s body hesitated, limbs gyrating unevenly. It seemed to consider the idea that its father was now gone, killed a second time. Then, accepting that idea, perhaps deciding it was less of a struggle to accept that idea, it twisted around… and pointed itself towards the nearest, greatest source of noise.

The last of the Nothings was little more than a twisted heap at this point. Eve had been working on it already, and its domed head bore thick scars from her brutal assault. Now, too, it was under attack by what remained of the Imperium’s forces, a thin line of bedraggled troops with ruined cannons and battered tanks. They fired at the Nothing, and it fired harpoons back at awkward angles, apparently unable to aim properly. They smashed into the ground well short of their targets. It wouldn’t be long before the Imperium cracked the Nothing’s face altogether.

Eve wanted it first.

Leaping atop the Nothing a second time - she’d abandoned her previous attack, because, oh, reasons, she couldn’t remember the reasons now, but there were reasons - she howled and slammed her fists into the metal. It shattered at once, like glass, raining shards of brittle armour down into the Nothing’s fragile innards. Eve descended with them, howling to herself, the urge to crush every moving thing into oblivion too strong to possibly ignore.

Her arms and legs pinwheeled. Cogs flew apart. Precious capsules exploded. Liquid oozed, coating Eve in a thick, black tar. She ignored it. Her muscles destroyed the Nothing from the inside out, even as it trembled from cannon fire striking its front. Then, with a mighty push of her legs, Eve propelled herself out the top of the Nothing, landing in front of the machine as it shuddered and collapsed forever. There would be no more harpoon screams in this world.

Dripping so much black liquid that it masked the blood oozing out of her ears, Eve stared across the scarred battlefield to the final line of Imperium soldiers. Even from this distance they looked shaken but relieved, some even smiling. One dared to wave to her, and as he did, Eve’s head vibrated. She saw red.




to kill him first


don’t be mad

The soldier’s hand dipped, but before it could reach his side, Eve was on him, faster than lightning. She lashed out, because that is what defined her life, and there was blood.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Seven: The Real Eve

The Baron’s tiny ghost had lived inside Eve since before her birth, controlling her actions and tainting her soul. It was as much a part of her as her failing organs, her unmatchable muscles, her strong heart, her very soul. It hid in a small niche in her intestines, never harming her, but always allowing The Baron to dictate her habits. He’d known he would not have been able to control her killing instincts to any sort of degree without that tiny ghost, a manifestation of his puppeteering powers.

The Baron had made the mistake of casually mentioning this fact to Kierkegaard. So when Kierkegaard created the other end of his portal, the last portal he would ever make, he knew exactly where it had to go. His claws caught the tiny, bespectacled spectre off guard, and with a quick snap snuffed it out.

Eve lost control immediately.

Her epic battle cry did not last long. Pulling one arm back, Eve launched a vicious, stabbing punch into Kierkegaard’s body. The first blow pummelled the life out of the penguin, but Eve punched again anyway, again and again and again, obliterating the spot where Kierkegaard had lain, shredding his body. The impact sent Dragomir sprawling to one side, shocked, fully awake, and unable to help himself.

Eve ignored her father. Howling, she launched herself at Antonio, and Cedric beside him. Antonio raised his arms to defend himself, surprisingly quickly… but Eve’s punch launched him into the air, catapulting him into the distance with utter killing intent. Dragomir didn’t know what happened to him, but he heard a loud ‘snap’ as Antonio’s arms broke.

You bitch,” Cedric hissed, and he kicked out at Eve. “You fucking - “

Eve casually knocked the kick aside with a chop of her hand. Cedric’s rotted body, already weakened through wear and tear, crumbled easily under the force of her hand, and the lower half of his right leg dropped to the ground. Eve grabbed the stump and whirled Cedric around in a tight arc, hurtling him into the air in the same direction she’d sent Antonio. Cedric’s surprised yelp frightened Dragomir.

In the distance, Dragomir heard the frantic padding of feet. He supposed that was Plato. Eve threw a quick glance towards the platypus, eyes narrowing, and her body tensed -

- but she redirected her anger at once as a cannonball flew towards her face. She batted it aside with a flick of her wrist, and it exploded in the distance.

The Sky Bitch hovered nearby, unleashing a tightly-controlled barrage of cannon fire at Eve, plainly taking pains not to strike Dragomir in the process. Eve batted each ball away with casual ease, coiling her legs and springing towards the nearest unmoving Nothing. Landing lightly beside the great machine, she grabbed at its foot and wrenched the heap of tangled metal and slimy black oil from its moorings. The leg creaked loudly as it flew into the air -

- and the Sky Bitch rocked as the leg struck, and ruined, its port side. The airship sputtered, veered off course, and, one side of it almost instantly ablaze, zipped off into the distance. Its dying cries floated to Dragomir’s ears a few seconds later as a painful rumble, the telltale sound of a crash landing.

Dragomir wanted to pray for the safety of his wife, and for every person he knew on the ship, whether they still liked him or not. It was entirely possible they did not. But that barely mattered now, because the apocalypse Eve had promised the world for so long seemed to have finally come, and Dragomir found himself staring it right in the face.

Eve thudded into the ground at Dragomir’s feet - Foot, he dimly amended, the other one’s fucked off somewhere - and loomed over her father. Her face was no longer the blank, controlled mask Dragomir always associated with his daughter, but instead that of an uncaged animal: eyes wide and twitching, mouth pulled back in a snarl, teeth bared. She leaned in close, sniffing at Dragomir, dripping drool onto his body. He wondered if she wanted to eat him.

“Hey… kiddo…” Dragomir struggled to say, only now aware that he’d landed on a rock. It was digging into his back, and it made talking difficult. “You… you gonna… kill me again…?”

Eve leaned in so close that she was now drooling on Dragomir’s face. The unsteady twitch of her eyes made her look absolutely mad. Yet Dragomir didn’t fear her - he was just sad that this, apparently, was what she really looked like, because he had at least a dim idea of what Kierkegaard had done in his final moments. He’d set her free. This, this, was Dragomir’s actual daughter, and despite how frightening she was, she could never frighten him. Not anymore.

Eve grabbed Dragomir by the throat, hoisting him into the air. He dangled from her grip like a rag doll, staring at the landscape around him with only mild interest. It was one of the more horrid battlefields he’d seen, and, he supposed, it would also be his last.

“Daddy… daddy still… loves you…” Dragomir promised, and he closed his eyes. “Daddy… always… loves… his Eve…”

And then, whether through miracle or conscious decision, Dragomir found himself flying through the air, tumbling freely with all the grace of crumpled parchment in a windstorm. He watched the world around him flip over and over, and moments before he hit the ground he caught sight of the blackened hole his Catastrophe had cut in the sky. He admired the stars blinking inside that jagged scar, and wondered if they were the last things he would ever see.

The ground where Dragomir landed was kinder than he’d expected. But it still hurt like a bitch.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Six: The Final Flight of Kierkegaard the Penguin

Through some miracle, Dragomir did not lose consciousness. His chest burned as much as his head, and with faint certainty he knew that he’d lost parts of his body with that last Catastrophe attack, but he did not black out. He wasn’t sure if this was the result of willpower or some cosmic determination that he watch what happened next, but either way, he saw.

The look on Kierkegaard’s face when he discovered he could no longer use his portals was nothing short of devastated. The penguin slammed his feet into the ground, a toddler denied his favourite playthings, and he screamed obscenities that would make the most bawdy tavern-dweller blush. He screamed every foul word he knew to the sky, inventing new and crazed curses even as the Sky Bitch resumed its attack on the penguin. Cannonballs exploded against his rubbery flesh, and he held one arm up to block the incoming shots.

Dragomir watched Kierkegaard’s death throes from where he lay. Dragomir’s spine hurt, and so, too, did the back of his head. Everything else did, too, but these two injuries felt more natural, and he clung to the sensation as best he could. He wondered if he was still wearing his helmet, because his brain felt numb. It turned out that he wasn’t, as moments later, someone put it back on his head.

“Zer,” the someone said, squishing the lump of metal gently into place on Dragomir’s mop of hair. “Zat lookz better. Up we go, ya?”

Strong arms hefted Dragomir into the air, and soon he was looking into the friendly - but grim - face of Antonio. The orc offered Dragomir a little smile, but it was a far cry from his usual, broad grin. Cedric was standing beside him, looking haggard but alert. Both men were covered in cuts major and minor, suggesting they’d had a rougher time dealing with their two Nothings than Dragomir had initially thought.

“Hey,” Cedric said, waving. “You look like shit, boss.”

“Well… you always… kinda….” Dragomir struggled for a comeback, but his mind was too fuzzy. “You… yeah, whatever… uh… you… you should put me… down… I’ll just… slow… slow…”

“No, doubt zat,” Antonio said, his voice turning sad but kindly. “You vill not zlow me too much now. You, ah, you have become razer light, ya? Iz… handy.”

Blinking and coughing up a bit of blood, Dragomir looked down at himself, dangling in Antonio’s arms. His body was still Non-black, save for a few random patches that looked suspiciously like his guardsman’s uniform, and green blood decorated most of his skin. His right leg swung loosely from side to side, never meeting its partner, and it took Dragomir a moment to realize that his left leg was almost entirely gone. He weakly reached down to touch the tiny stump of his upper thigh… only to realize that his left arm was also gone.

Well, shit.

“Welcome to the disabilities club, boss,” Cedric grunted. “Lemme tell ya, it kinda sucks.”

“Ugh… I bet…” Dragomir’s head flopped back, exhausted, but then he snapped it back up, looking around for Kierkegaard. “We… we gotta get him… don’t let him… don’t…”

“We got him,” Cedric replied, looking off in the distance. “Don’t worry ‘bout that. We got the fuck.”

Antonio adjusted his arms so Dragomir could look across the battlefield without straining himself. The Sky Bitch was raining cannonball after cannonball into Kierkegaard in the distance, ripping more and more of the penguin’s enormous body away with each volley. Kierkegaard screamed and screamed as his body disintegrated, muscles puffing into oily black clouds and vanishing. At one point Dragomir thought he heard Kierkegaard bellow for his Nothings, but the machines were now little more than a clustered metal graveyard, with the only two active spheres under assault from Eve and the Imperium.

“We… we won…” Dragomir sighed, a heavy weight falling away from his chest. “We won… we… actually… shit…”

“Come on,” Antonio replied. “Let uz get you into a bed.”

“N… no,” Dragomir said immediately, fighting the compulsion to rest just yet. He pointed towards the cloud of explosions in the distance. “Take… take me over there. Take me… take me to him.”

“Vat?” Antonio blinked. It was one of the few times Dragomir had ever seen the orc’s eyes. “No, zer iz no point. Ve muzt get you - “

Dragomir strained, pointing towards the explosions. Antonio got the picture.

By the time Antonio and Cedric shepherded Dragomir over to Plato, the Sky Bitch had ceased its cannon fire. Plato was on the ground, breathing hard, his energy scythe fading back into a hole in the air. Dragomir wondered if the hole was anything like Kierkegaard’s portals, and if that was the reason Plato seemed capable of popping Kierkegaard’s powers. It was a question for another day, and Dragomir supposed the answer didn’t matter that much anyway. Plato looked almost sheepish, as though he’d done something wrong.

Dragomir patted the platypus on the head as he passed. “Good… good going, bud. You… you’re a lot… lot better… than I… gave… credit… for….”

Plato nodded and quacked. It was much more fitting for him not to speak english, and Dragomir smiled.

Kierkegaard was sprawled in the dirt fifty feet away from his platypus nemesis, surrounded on all sides by cannonball craters. The penguin was again just a penguin, his small, black-and-white body adorned with blood, wounds, and the tattered remains of his general’s uniform. His chest rose and fell in ragged gasps, and as Antonio approached he raised his head weakly, the green glint in his eyes fading. He pointed one useless hand at Antonio -

- and a portal, no larger than a fist, appeared in the air in front of Antonio. It popped like a soap bubble seconds later. A second portal appeared, too, slightly smaller, and then another, each popping just as quickly, and just as uselessly. Kierkegaard sighed and dropped his head to the dirt, apparently giving up, and blood bubbled out of his beak.

“Take me over… to him,” Dragomir requested, fighting sleep. “Got… got something to ask…”

Antonio shrugged and nodded. He plodded to the penguin’s side, setting Dragomir down beside his long-time enemy. Kierkegaard didn’t bother to look at him, his eyes to the sky. Dragomir didn’t look either. He’d seen Kierkegaard enough times to know what the bastard looked like.

“You… you bitch… heh… traitor…” Kierkegaard gurgled. “Come… come to gloat…”

Dragomir furrowed his brow, confused. It was an odd way to start a final conversation… or it was until Dragomir realized that Kierkegaard was now looking into the face of Eve. At some point Dragomir’s daughter had joined them, standing as a silent sentry, covered from head to toe in minor wounds. She didn’t look put out by them at all, and when one of Kierkegaard’s tiny portals appeared in her face and popped, she didn’t so much as flinch.

“You… and your fuck of a father…” Kierkegaard’s words seemed to ooze out of him, propelled by a sick sense of humour. “And that… whore… of a mother… she… shot me… so many… times… eheh, still here… though…”

“You lost,” Dragomir said, struggling to keep his voice strong. “And you have to… put up with that. You’re dead. Now… before you go, I wanna know why.”

Laughter burbled out of the penguin, thick and liquidy. “Eh… eheh… you wanna… why…? Why… why what, Drago… Dragofuck…?”

“Why you did this,” Dragomir said. His throat still hurt badly, but he forced himself to keep going. “Why you… killed so many people. Why you exhausted your own people. Why you’re such an… such an asshole.”

Kierkegaard clapped his beak shut, and he was silent for a moment, thinking it over. Then, with a tone that sounded too much like he was grinning, he spoke. “What’s… what’s black… and white… and red… all… over…? The… the obvious answer… Dragofuck… is me… my… my life… is black… and white… and red… and that’s the way… that’s the way… I like it… so if you… you came here… expecting… some bull…. bullshit… remorse… you can… go… fuck…. yourself…”

Another portal popped, this near Eve’s shoulder. Dragomir shook his head. He hadn’t expected remorse, but he’d wanted a better explanation than that. He knew he wasn’t going to get it, though, and he contented himself with the lifting of the burden of responsibility. He was done, and that, he supposed, was enough. He could be simple again. Less an arm and a leg, and facing the final days of his life, but simple.

Kierkegaard raised his good hand towards Eve. It wavered weakly, claws clicking together in the sunlight. He chortled. “You… you fucks… you think you… you think you won the game… the game… don’t you…? You… you actually… think… you won…”

Another portal popped, right beside Eve’s stomach. Dragomir flinched, and a small alarm bell went off in the back of his mind, but he wasn’t sure what it meant. “Eve… take a step… back… just one… or two…”

“You… you think I’d… I’d let you go,” Kierkegaard continued, opening his hand wide. The bones in his hand cracked, seeming to shift back into place. “You… you think I’d… let you win… nobody… nobody wins… when… when I know… the secrets… because… that dumb… fuck… told me…

“Eve, step… step back,” Dragomir demanded, voice stronger. His daughter didn’t budge. “Eve, go, get out of here - “

Kierkegaard chortled one last time. “And now… nobody… wins.”

The portal that appeared in front of Kierkegaard was no larger than any of the others, but it was large enough for his hand. He plunged his arm through, sitting up so violently that his whole body spasmed, and he gritted his beak together hard. Dragomir tried to sit up as well, failing, realizing that his left side was now far weaker than before -

- and then the world was made of sound, as Eve bellowed a blood-thirsty battle cry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Five: Tables Turned

We’re gonna what?

Dragomir didn’t know. What he did know is that when he woke up, he was crouched on the ground like some angry predator, in the shadow of an enormous, tottering machine. The ruined Nothing didn’t look like it was going to move any time soon, but he decided not to take his chances and hopped away, head still buzzing with pain and the remnants of sleep.

He hadn’t missed a whole lot, apparently, since his body went on auto-pilot and forced him to land safely. Another of the Nothings on the front lines had gone down, and through the chaos high above him Dragomir spied Eve rushing to another of the great machines. She was their ultimate weapon, the only one who could really take the Nothings down in a hurry, and he’d hoped everyone else could distract their attention enough for Eve to do her work. So far they seemed to be succeeding -

- especially as far as Kierkegaard was concerned. The penguin did not look happy.

Kierkegaard had staggered out of the pack of Nothings, one hand gone, the other limp, his body surrounded by portals. Plato was standing in front of the enormous Non, clumsily hopping from side to side to avoid the constant barrage of portals appearing at his feet. Every now and then Plato would swipe his scythe down at a portal, and it would pop shut, sparking a yelp from Kierkegaard. Dragomir watched this happen a few times before something clicked in the back of his head.

That’s why he shut Plato up in the first place, isn’t it? He thought dimly. That’s why he tossed Plato into his… dimension… thing… whatever the hell it is… for a thousand years… because Plato could hurt him in a way no one else could. Wish I’d known that a long time ago… 

“YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?!” Kierkegaard lashed out with a clumsy kick at the platypus, but it was far too obvious for Plato not to avoid. “FUCK! YOU WERE NOTHING THEN AND YOU’RE NOTHING NOW-

Kierkegaard’s harangue ended with a pained grunt as a cannonball exploded against his face. Wheeling around, the Non turned his glare on the Sky Bitch, swooping in low from a distance to deliver a vicious broadside against his shoulders. Kierkegaard redirected a cluster of portals in front of his face, and the cannonballs immediately changed trajectory, flying back towards the Sky Bitch through a second, overlapping field of portals. The crew was apparently ready for this, though, and the ship immediately pulled up and away with only minimal damage. 

In the meantime, Plato used the distraction to destroy a dozen of Kierkegaard’s errant portals. Each time he did, Kierkegaard’s discomfort seemed to grow, and by the time he’d turned his attention back to Plato oozing blood flowed freely from Kierkegaard’s skeletal beak.

Another Nothing fell. Harpoon screams, which had previously seemed almost omnipresent, began to wane significantly. Scanning the battlefield, Dragomir noticed Cedric and Antonio working on bringing down another of the great machines, Antonio on the defensive while Cedric smashed at its feet with his mighty legs. Their assault seemed to have given the Imperium time to rebound, as well, and the cannons from the direction of Rodentia roared once again, pushing the front line of Nothings back. Through some miracle, they were -

And that’s when Dragomir fell into the ground.

Dragomir had not consciously experienced codespace for some time. It was as he’d remembered: an unending field of stars, tinged with a sense of awe the likes of which could not be known by any but a child with no knowledge of the world. But this codespace felt wrong, as though it was somehow fouler than the rest, and as he floated freely through Dragomir thought he saw other things floating with him: a bone, a globule of blood, the remains of a dead animal… a man’s head. The stars were red, and Dragomir knew where he was.

This was confirmed seconds later, when his own head popped out of a green-ringed portal in front of Kierkegaard. The portal’s exit snapped shut around Dragomir’s neck, holding him in place. 

“HOLD… HOLD YOUR FUCKIN’ FIRE!” Kierkegaard demanded, huffing. He’d dropped to one knee, apparently quite hurt by the combination of Plato and the Sky Bitch. Dragomir wondered if the toll of constantly campaigning for a year had also taken a toll on the penguin. “I’VE GOT YOUR FUCKIN’ MASTERMIND, HERE, AND IF YOU DON’T PISS OFF I’LL SNIP HIS PRECIOUS LITTLE HEAD! SO JUST BACK THE FUCK OFF!

Shit, thought Dragomir. He struggled to breathe properly. Shit shit shit. I… how did I get into this mess… how did I not notice…

Plato was the only one to initially notice Dragomir’s tiny floating head, and he waved frantically at the Sky Bitch to hold off. The ship was about to move in for another barrage, and one cannon actually went off, before somebody apparently spotted him as well. The ship abruptly veered off course and took up a circling patrol around Kierkegaard, guns always pointed at the penguin.

Another Nothing fell.

“Tell… your fucking brat… to cut that out…” Kierkegaard demanded, clearly speaking to Dragomir. “I’m… I’m almost out… of toys…”

“Go… fuck… yourself…” Dragomir gasped. 

The portal around Dragomir’s neck tightened, crushing his windpipe. His gasping turned into choking, and his eyes widened. He tried to use his liquid Non skin to wriggle free, but Kierkegaard was apparently wise to that, and he thinned his portal so much that it was no larger than a wedding band. Dragomir suspected he looked almost comical, his oily black neck squeezed to the diameter of a noodle, and he struggled uselessly.

Tell her,” Kierkegaard hissed, spitting out a large glob of blood. “Or I’ll pop your head clean off, Dragofuck.

Dragomir didn’t know how he was supposed to tell anyone anything. His lungs felt like they were about to burst, his eyes goggled, and his body flailed in codespace, grasping for purchase and finding nothing in the void. Dragomir was dimly aware of something squishy rebounding off of his foot, and part of him wanted to know what it was, and another part desperately did not. He felt his bowels releasing as death approached, and he tried, he actually tried to cry out, but his voice had fled him, and his vision started to go as black as his skin.

He only had one option, really. So he took it. He let go.

The result of his release of control was nothing short of spectacular. The Catastrophe erupted from Dragomir’s fingertips as an unseen force, exploding outward in a torrent of deadly sparks. They shredded through Kierkegaard’s codespace, destroying the fabric of existence immediately around Dragomir’s neck in a bright flash. Dragomir fell free of Kierkegaard’s ruined portal and flopped onto the ground, body thudding hard into the dirt twenty feet below. The wound he’d left in the air would never repair itself, remaining a strange, starry curiosity in the sky for years to come. 

Kierkegaard screamed, tumbling backward and falling on his rear. Every one of the portals he’d conjured disappeared, and when he raised his one limp hand to conjure more, nothing happened.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Four: Eat up

The second Nothing fell after five minutes of sustained, furious fighting, and the third went down shortly thereafter.

Eve proved the most effective at eliminating her enemies, surprising no one. Immediately after dashing past Kierkegaard and launching herself at her first target she managed to crack the shell of the first Nothing within half a minute, dodging harpoons the whole time, her feet and her arms driving deeper and deeper cracks into its superstructure, each with the power of a dozen cannonballs. She had dozen of cuts and scratches from near-misses by the time the last Nothing’s shell finally cracked open, but they weren’t near enough to stop her.

The Nothing’s innards didn’t stand a chance. It clanked to a halt. Then, open to further battering from the inside, it slowly began to tilt… slowly… slowly… and then quickly fell over when Eve apparently destroyed the axle holding the right leg to the sphere. Body and leg separated, and the whole thing smashed into the ground.

Emerging as a mess of blood, oil, and rapidly-dissolving Nothing liquids, Eve calmly moved on to the next.

The third Nothing was not quite so thoroughly mashed by Cedric, but he did the best job he could with only supernatural legs at his disposal. Charging forward with supporting fire from the Sky Bitch to cover his approach and Antonio on one side to deftly push him out of the way of incoming harpoons, Cedric brought his feet to bear on the nearest Nothing, kicking at its lower leg so viciously that the metal bent almost immediately. Harpoons screamed at him, but Antonio continually pushed him out of the way, displaying a level of swiftness almost Logan-like in its fluidity. The Nothing’s leg crumpled, and as the metal got weaker and weaker the whole thing collapsed under its own weight. It continued to fire harpoons, but more impotently than before.

And Kierkegaard had fear in his eyes. It was slight, and tinged with bloodthirsty excitement, but there was still fear. That was enough to press Dragomir into finally attacking his target.

Doing his best to ignore the wails of Plato as Kierkegaard flicked him away with a hideous bellow, Dragomir leaped through a hailstorm of confused harpoons, over the penguin’s stump of a hand, and up onto the hull of the Nothing with the largest crack in its side. 

“I’m not a fuckin’ superhuman like the rest of you,” he’d explained. “Just a bit weird. Give me that one so I can feel like I did something.”

Cedric had sniffed disdain at that. “What, you think you haven’t done shit? You’ve been busy for four-and-a-half-years, nitwit. You could sit the rest out and still be the hero.”

“Yeah, well, I’m still dibsing that Nothing. Stop trying to compliment me.”

“I’m not.” Cedric’s broken grin had looked almost handsome. But not quite. “Just sayin’ that you’ve had too much spotlight. Fine, take the easy one. I’ll go for something hard and make you look like a sissy.”

Dragomir didn’t much feel like a sissy as he clambered into the guts of the Nothing. Though he had to confess that his stealthy approach was a far cry from Cedric and Antonio, constantly exposed to danger on the outside. 

The Nothing’s guts resembled the insides of the Sky Bitch or the Matriarch’s engine rooms, though taken to a ridiculous degree. The space was a dense, dark, noisy labyrinth of grinding gears and sloshing liquids, and from the light of the outside world Dragomir caught faint glimpses of some of the enormous cogs that made the thing go. It was an impressive, if intimidating, sight.

“I WILL FUCK YOU UP,” Kierkegaard bellowed outside, his rage tinged with pain and bewilderment. “I’M GONNA EAT YOUR ENTRAILS LIKE FUCKIN’ SAUSAGE LINKS, YOU GOODY-GOODY PRICK!”

Eugh, no time to waste, Dragomir thought warily. He cast a quick eye over his shoulder as he held his hands out to the gears, peering through the jagged rupture in the Nothing’s side. He couldn’t see Plato, but he could see Kierkegaard stepping free of the Nothings to chase after something. Portals blazed brightly along the ground. Guess that plan didn’t work. He can use his stupid portals without his hands anyway. Oh well.

Forcing concentration, Dragomir closed his eyes. His body shuddered as he summoned the Catastrophe, focusing its chaotic cavalcade of sparks into the most controlled funnel he could manage. They whirled to life, at first weak, then, after several seconds of agonizing pain, erupting into a conical burst that disintegrated every scrap of metal they touched. Untouched cogs ground to a halt, and pieces of the Nothing’s ancient innards, no longer supported by their kin, began to rain down and wreak further havoc.

Dragomir only managed to keep the Catastrophe going for a few seconds before he forced himself to shut it down. Through the horrifying haze of pain, wheezing, and green Non blood seeping out of his nose, ears, and the corners of his eyes, he wished that the stupid thing would just form a sword like it used to. This sparkly bullshit was getting out of hand.

Staggering backward with a gasp, his vision trebling, Dragomir watched the Nothing fall apart from within as he fell out of its guts. The great beast moaned, dribbling loose cogs from the hole in its side, and Dragomir’s last lucid sight for several minutes was a harpoon dissolving mere inches from his face. It was enough to make him smile as he blacked out.


Dragomir thought about that. “It’s you again, isn’t it? Get out of my dreams already.”

“I can’t. You keep pullin’ me there.”

Dragomir felt wind whistling along his skin, but he saw only white. Well, that and a scruffy man with a bandaged face. “Dunno why. You suck. Stop giving me nightmares. I haven’t slept properly in ages.”

“Years,” the man affirmed. “Years. There’s a reason for that.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Guilt.”

“Guilt. I don’t have shit to be guilty ‘bout.”

“Part of you does,” the man replied confidently. “A big enough part that you keep coming back here, even when you should be focused on landing properly. But I think your body can handle that on its own. You have other concerns.”

“Like what?”

“Like giving it back.” The man held out his hand.

Dragomir flinched away. “N… no. It’s mine.”

The man smiled. “Then… I guess I’ll just have to take it all. It’s the only way.”

The man opened his mouth, displaying two rows of surprisingly white teeth. Dragomir felt a vacuuming force on his chest, his stomach, his arms and legs and head, and as the vacuum grew stronger he seemed to shrink, dwarfed by the man’s enormous maw. Dragomir struggled to get away, but there was too much pain and too much force, and he was pulled off of his feet and past those two rows of perfect teeth. They closed over his scream.

“I know this is a really strange time to bring this up,” the man said, “but when this is over, you’d better stop avoidin’ me. We have shit to do, Dragomir the Farsighted. Or… we’re gonna.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Three: If ever there was a boss battle

“A year ago, I would’ve said you’re fuckin’ crazy.”

“Guess it’s lucky this isn’t a year ago, eh?”

“I guess. You come back, okay? Make sure that stupid-ass daughter of ours keeps you well. I’ll beat her ass otherwise.”

“Sure. Though I don’t know that she’ll listen to me.”

“Yes, she will. You’re the only person she’ll obey, because you’re the only person she actually loves. Everyone else is a meal ticket.”

The thought swelled Dragomir with pride, and it gave him the courage to start running.

Despite whatever physical debilitations were chewing at her body, Eve flew across the landscape like a torpedo. She charged well ahead of everyone else, reaching the first Nothing within half a minute. The machine didn’t know what hit it as she leaped into the air, unleashing a devastating kick on its hull. Another, nearby Nothing tried to impale her with a harpoon, but she rebounded off of the blade’s tip with a quick flick of her feet.

“Fuck me, I doubt I can ever do that,” Dragomir muttered to himself. He put all of his Non muscle into his legs and leaped forward, bounding towards the Nothings in leapfrog hops.

Kierkegaard spotted him coming from the very beginning. Now out in the open, the Non bellowed a challenge at Dragomir, cast a quick side glance at Eve as she whizzed by, and raised his hands. Somewhere, Dragomir had no doubt, a pair of portals had just appeared - 

- and, as expected, their counterparts appeared mere feet in front of Dragomir. Four, five, no, six harpoons screamed through, chewing up the ground at Dragomir’s feet. He was saved only because he was already travelling in the right direction, and even then some of the debris driven up by the harpoons cut into his leg. He gritted his teeth and landed a little wobbly, but immediately jumped again, because another portal appeared before him, bringing more harpoons to bear. Whirling, he gathered as much of the Catastrophe into his hands as possible, and the cavalcade of sparks cut through the tethers of the harpoons like a knife through butter. The sickly black liquid burnt away and dissolved.

An inferno raged in Dragomir’s head, and as he landed he noticed that his right hand seemed a little wavier than usual. Not quite right. He ignored it and kept going, charging towards the titanous penguin in the distance. Kierkegaard offered Dragomir a knowing grin…

… but it quickly turned to a hateful sneer as his head whipped around to gauge a new threat. Cedric was pounding across the battlefield towards him, Antonio on one side, Plato clinging to the buff captain’s back. 

“Why, Plato, you little fuck!” Kierkegaard cried, ignoring the human and the orc. “Come for a little revenge, have we? This’ll be shitloads of fun!”

Kierkegaard drove his arms into a pair of portals, and they emerged at Cedric’s feet. The captain skipped nimbly out of the way, landing with a puff of dirt, his platypus cargo abruptly thrown from his shoulders. Plato quacked as he hit the ground, rolling and bouncing with the grace of a grape, dropped from a dinner plate. Before Kierkegaard could pull his hand back through Antonio neatly slid to a stop, and he rammed one carefully-aimed fist into the penguin’s wrist. The penguin half-squealed, half-roared, and shook his hand painfully.

Both hands reemerged from their portals. One looked limp and useless. The other held a squirming, trembling Plato, gripped tightly in enormous, clawed fingers.

Kierkegaard held Plato up to one skeletal eye socket and peered appraisingly at him. A sickly tongue slid across the penguin’s razor-sharp beak. “I shoulda eaten you a long fuckin’ time ago, bro. Bottoms - ”

Kierkegaard didn’t finish his sentence. A slew of harpoons abruptly flew at the back of his head, knocking the huge top hat away from his ebony skull, and he shrieked angrily. He spun around - 

- and found one of the frontline Nothings facing him. Dozens of tiny, spectral forms flitted about its surface, and a Non-green light blazed from within a crack in the Nothing’s superstructure. One of the spectres grew large enough to be visible even to Dragomir, and it looked just as bald, just as puffy-faced, and just as officious as its owner… though it did stick its tongue out at Kierkegaard, which was something new.

WE CAN FUCK WITH MACHINES, NOW, TOO, EH, OLD MAN?” Kierkegaard created an enormous portal in front of himself to absorb a second flurry of harpoons aimed at his chest. “TRY THIS ON FOR FUCKIN’ SIZE!

The other end of the portal appeared behind the attacker. The harpoons impaled the Nothing from behind, and it clanked and whirred painfully as it listed to one side. Kierkegaard drove one well-muscled foot through the portal for good measure, knocking the Nothing off-balance and into the dirt. The landscape rumbled, and the Nothings at the front of the line, still facing off against the remnants of the Imperium guarding Rodentia, slowly began to turn around to track their newer, more dangerous foes. They drove hundreds of harpoons into the controlled Nothing, and it crumbled away almost instantly.

It was the distraction Plato needed.

During the attack, Dragomir noticed, Plato seemed to have steeled himself in Kierkegaard’s iron grip, whipped around though he was in the much-bigger Non’s talons. His skin had reverted from its normal grey to its natural Non black, and with oily sleekness Plato squirted up and out of Kierkegaard’s fingers. Landing nimbly on Kierkegaard’s forearm, Plato raised one stubby hand into the air, and seconds later there was a scythe clutched tightly in his fingers.

Get ‘im, Dragomir thought, bounding towards the closest Nothing, the one with the exposed innards. The Sky Bitch was raining cannon fire into its top as an additional distraction. Get ‘im good, little guy.

Kierkegaard had just enough time to peer down at Plato before the platypus swiped his scythe downward. The sparking green energy sliced through Kierkegaard’s wrist without the slightest resistance, parting flesh from flesh, bone from bone. The wound was cauterized at once as Kierkegaard’s left hand plummeted to the ground, hitting the dirt with such force that it disappeared in a puff of dirt and debris.

Kierkegaard didn’t bellow, didn’t complain, didn’t mutter a word. All he could do was stare at the stump of his arm in mute shock, and for the first time since meeting the Non, Dragomir suspected he saw legitimate fear in Kierkegaard’s glittering green eyes.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-Two: Charge

They found Kierkegaard and his Nothings within sight of the ruins of Rodentia four hours later. There were, as described, ten of the enormous orbs - and Kierkegaard stood at the heart of the cluster, at his full height, grinning maliciously with his bird’s skull of a head.

“I don’t understand why he’s doing this,” Dragomir commented, throat dry. “He’s lost. Why keep going?”

“He hasn’t lost,” The Baron replied. “He just wants to kill. He’s accomplished that goal in spades. I think he’d be content dying in a fight. And this promises to be a hell of a fight.”

Dragomir’s eyes wandered from one Nothing to another. They were an intimidating force, no doubt - yet they all had many battle scars, testaments to battles waged alongside the Non and on their own. One was limping slightly, because its left leg appeared to be damaged. Another had a wide spiderweb of cracks crisscrossing along its top. Yet another bore an enormous hole in its flank, exposing a network of complex gears large enough to be seen even from this distance. None of them appeared to be pristine.

“We could really use Barrel for this,” Dragomir muttered. “I wish he hadn’t taken off after the shit with Grayson. Eva, too, wherever she is. Assuming she’s… still… alive. This won’t be easy.”

The Baron shook his head. “No. No it won’t. And I can’t help but wonder if we should perhaps hold back - ”

Dragomir’s glare silenced The Baron. He didn’t need to say anything else.

The Imperium’s remaining forces, a ramshackle line of damaged cannons and weary troops, stood between Kierkegaard and the imperial capital of Rodentia. The moment the first of his Nothings came within range the Imperium opened fire, their innumerable blue banners fluttering in the backdraft of their cannons. Through some miracle, the first of the Nothings went down almost at once, and Dragomir’s heart lightened.

The sensation didn’t last for long. The Nothings didn’t have quite the same range as the cannons, and weaving around their fallen, burbling comrade took some time, but once they’d reached striking distance the great machines unleashed an ungodly, screaming torrent of harpoons that made Dragomir quiver. They punctured the lines of the Imperium with relentless ferocity, destroying weapon emplacement after weapon emplacement and killing soldiers with every stroke. Kierkegaard raised his arms triumphantly, somewhat dwarfed by the Nothings all around him, and Dragomir imagined the penguin’s ungodly cackle.

We don’t have superiority by numbers anymore, Dragomir thought, considering just how many troops he’d left behind to watch over the Non. We’ll have to settle for individual strength. Let’s see how this plays out.

Nodding to Libby, Dragomir went belowdecks. Behind him his wife immediately began to bark orders, and the guns of the Sky Bitch opened fire, sending reverberations throughout the ship. Dragomir had no trouble remaining upright; The Baron, following close behind, was not quite so sturdy, and he bounced off of the bulkheads as he tried to follow the younger man at a brisk clip. They made their way into the ship’s small cargo hold, where several figures waited for them.

Despite the tension of the situation, Dragomir took a moment to look around at the faces staring back at him. They were all familiar, and most of them, despite sordid pasts, were friendly. He smiled, and most of them smiled back, though grimly. They knew what was coming. They knew what they’d volunteered for.

“You ready?” Dragomir asked.

“Yep,” Cedric said. He was clothed in a wide cape, but Dragomir knew his arms were withered and almost useless in the aftermath of Doc’s death. His legs had somehow retained their original power, though, and he stomped them gently against the deck, leaving a tiny indent in the metal. “Whoops.”

“Yez,” Antonio said. He was covered in scars from the previous battle, but looked ready to fight nonetheless. His characteristic smile was gone, and it had been since the death of his sister. Dragomir had never known if Antonio understood who the alpha female of the werewolves was; apparently he had.

“I… I guess so,” Plato stammered. He passed the rat on his shoulder to Dragomir, who set the wise little creature on the ground. “But… I don’t know how much… how much I can do…”

Eve nodded mutely.

Not enough, Dragomir thought. Not nearly enough. But it’ll have to do on such short notice.

The Sky Bitch, still firing, descended. Someone - Dragomir suspected it was The Baron, but in the sudden haze of sound and fury he wasn’t sure - opened the cargo bay door, and the ground loomed a short five foot drop below them. Air blasting him in the face, Dragomir dropped out of the door first, knowing that by all rights he needed to be first, even before his battle-hungry daughter. She landed with a puff of dirt beside him, coughing lightly as she did, and the rest followed.

The Sky Bitch lifted off. Dragomir changed into his Non form, pushing his helmet down onto his bushy black hair as securely as he could. Small lights crackled around his fingers, and he eyed the Non with the enormous puncture wound in its side. It was one of the closest to Kierkegaard. He would go for that.

The penguin, perhaps hearing the roar of the cannons, turned and peered at them through the cluster of Nothings. His ebony grin grew by fantastic degrees, and as it did, the Nothings parted to let his heaving bulk through.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day Nine-Twenty-One: We'll go together

Dinner that night was a plate of cold, leftover beef. It was a large plate, Dragomir had to admit, but it was still a single plate. One of Dragomir’s crewers left it outside the cabin door, sitting on the floor, and alerted Dragomir with a terse knock. When Dragomir opened the door to retrieve the plate he caught sight of Libby, and she looked ready to tear the man’s throat out. Dragomir shook his head, picked up the plate, and went back into the cabin.

Libby screamed at the man anyway. Dragomir smiled to himself, then tuned her out. He could put up with disrespect; she could not, apparently.

Eve had seated herself at the far chair in the small conference room, sitting rigidly at attention. Dragomir paused for a moment, studying her, and she studied him back. The scar on Dragomir’s belly stung, but he didn’t mind. It was a loving sting. He could put up with that.

“Here,” he said, setting the beef in front of Eve. “I’m not hungry. You have it.”

Eve looked at the beef. She poked it with a gauntleted hand, then leaned in close to sniff it. She didn’t eat anything, however, and resumed staring at Dragomir. She looked to him like a picky cat, ill at ease with any dish presented to her unless it was exactly what she wanted. 

“You don’t turn down food,” Dragomir murmured, seating himself beside Eve. “You’ve never turned down food ‘round me. Not once. I saw you eat a gods-be-damned mammoth, kiddo. What’s the deal?”

Eve blinked. She looked at the food again, then back at her father. Her green eyes sparkled. “I will cast you into the deepest hell available to me. And while you burn in a lake of roiling lava, I will hurl spears at your face.”

“Well, that hasn’t changed,” Dragomir said wryly. He reached up to touch Eve’s face, and she let him. Her skin was smooth… but there were still lines. “Normally you’d’ve chucked me through a wall for this. Something’s wrong, innit?”

Eve didn’t respond. She ran a hand along her jaw and up her cheeks, inspecting the faint creases around her mouth and under her eyes. She traced each one quietly, then, with surprising tenderness, she held Dragomir’s hand up to her face until he did the same. The skin here felt almost crinkly, as if made of old parchment, and when Dragomir pulled his hand away he found pale white flakes decorating his fingertips.

“Does it hurt?” Dragomir asked, voice trembling.

Eve nodded. She patted her right breast, her stomach, and her legs. “I have been pierced by the darts of a blazing sun. My skin smoulders, as yours will, when I set your body ablaze.”

That seems as close as I’m gonna come to a straightforward answer. Guess it’s enough, though. Dragomir nodded. “Open your mouth, kiddo. Lemme have a look.”

Eve did as instructed. Dragomir peeked inside, inspected her teeth. He had no idea what he was looking for, but something told him that this was a good place to start - and that something was right. Eve’s front teeth looked as oddly straight and white as ever, but her molars looked old and eroded, and her breath stank of death. Even in the dim light of the cabin he could see that the top of her mouth was decorated by sticky black blood.

The ship rumbled, and Dragomir could tell they were now in the air. Despite the shaky decks he remained standing for a long time, looking at those decaying yellow molars, wondering exactly what they meant. No, fearing, rather, because he knew what they meant. They meant something he’d suspected for a long time, ever since he’d come back from Goblinoster to find that his tiny baby girl had grown into a teenaged warrior.

Dragomir moved to the door and popped it open. As he’d hoped, The Baron was still on the bridge, standing by himself. The crew seemed to be shunning him even more than normal. “Old man! Get in here a second, will you? Need to ask you somethin’.”

As The Baron quietly walked towards the door, one of the crewers raised a hand. “Uh… Dragomir? Logan’s sent a message by pigeon, asking what we’re planning - “

“I already told you what we’re planning,” Dragomir snapped. He caught a brief glimpse of the army of Non outside the ship as it lifted into the sky. “You tell him that. He’s not in charge here, and he needs to stop thinking he is.”

The crewer shut his mouth. On the other side of the bridge, glowering at her crew in general, Libby nodded approvingly. The Baron stepped past Dragomir, and he shut the door again, nodding back to his wife. He should’ve known the authoritarian route would work for her.

Eve still had her mouth open. The Baron cocked his head at her. “What’s this? What are you two doing in here?”

“Inspecting,” Dragomir replied. He pointed at Eve’s mouth. “Look at her teeth. The back teeth. Then tell me what I wanna know.”

The Baron hesitated, and the slight flinch in his hands revealed his thoughts. He moved slowly to Eve’s side, then, with infinite caution, he looked into her mouth. He only seemed able to stand her terrible breath for a few moments before he pulled away again, waving a hand in front of his already-covered nose. Dragomir folded his arms and waited.

“That,” The Baron said, after a long moment, “that is something I suppose I expected. Your daughter is dying, Dragomir. I’m so sorry.”

Dragomir wanted to reach across the room, which was something he could literally do now, and throttle the old man. He wanted to wrap his Non fingers around The Baron’s Non throat and squeeze his fucking Non life right out of his Non head, because all of this Non bullshit was to blame. “Is this because she’s some kinda weapon? Is that why she ages so quickly?”

The Baron must have heard the anger in Dragomir’s taut voice, because he took a step away from father and daughter alike. “Er… yes, something like that. She possesses incredible power, but that power comes at a cost. I tailored her to grow quickly, because I needed a full-fledged warrior within a year to complete my plan. Her extreme movements and constant battling have aged her prematurely, it seems. I’m… I’m - “

“I don’t give a shit if you’re sorry, so stop saying it,” Dragomir snapped. “How long does she have?”

The Baron shook his head. “I have no idea. A few months, perhaps. Maybe a year if we’re lucky. She is, ah, extremely hardy, so a year wouldn’t surprise me - “

“Then let her go.”

The Baron’s head rocked back at the suggestion, though he pretended not to understand at first. “I beg your pardon?”

“You don’t get a pardon. I know you’ve got one of your… ghost… things…. inside her. Controlling her. Probably been restraining her since she was a baby. Let her go so she can live normally for the last few months of her life.” Dragomir’s lip trembled. “Come on. It can’t hurt, now, can it? Just let her be herself.”

The Baron’s tiny eyes narrowed sadly behind his glasses, and he shook his head. “I… I can’t. If I do… Dragomir, you’re right, I’ve been keeping her under a leash since before she was born. I had to, because her… tendencies… if she were to be released from my control, I think she would go on a rampage. She would kill indiscriminately. I don’t know what kind of personality you think she has, but…”

Dragomir looked to his daughter. She was staring at The Baron, expression vacant… yet there was a hint of reproach in her eyes, and the slightest promise of vengeance. If she ever got free, The Baron would almost certainly be the first person she killed. Dragomir knew that with complete and utter certainty, just as surely as he knew that The Baron was probably right. He’d known his daughter too long not to realize that she was, despite the core of sweetness, a killing machine.

“I don’t know what to say.” The Baron shuffled his feet. “I’m to blame.”

“Of all the things you could’ve picked, that was pretty fuckin’ stupid.” Dragomir pointed to the door. “Of course you’re to blame. Get out.”

The Baron scuttled out the door without a moment’s hesitation. The haste of the man’s departure gave Dragomir the slightest taste of what it would be like to act like a dictator, and the gesture was bitter to his tongue and his mind. He shuddered, kicked the door shut in The Baron’s wake, and turned back to his daughter. She still hadn’t closed her mouth, and he smiled sadly at this. He motioned for her to clamp her jaw shut, and she finally did.

“First Evangelina goes missing, now this.” Dragomir sighed. His heart hurt as much as his head. “I’ve lost a lot of people in the last… hell, four years, Eve. Most of ‘em just this year. And now I’m going to lose you too? It’s not right. It’s not right at all. I haven’t had a single chance to be a proper father to you. That’s maybe my biggest regret.”

Eve said nothing. Dragomir almost wished she would casually threaten him, because her silence seemed like just another sign of sickness.

“Well, you don’t need to worry,” he said. “I’ll be coming with ya. We’ll enjoy whatever afterlife there is together, yeah? You and me.”

Dragomir hugged his daughter, firmly but gently. He could feel her ribs through her leather armour, and he immediately loosened his grip a little. But Eve did not flinch, did not complain, did not harm him as he’d initially thought she would, and did not hug him back. He hoped, secretly, that she would hug him just once before the end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Twenty: Lines

“He’s headed straight for Rodentia.”

Dragomir pinched the bridge of his nose. It was a gesture of exasperation - but he also hoped it would keep blood from dribbling out of his nostrils. That seemed to be happening a lot, lately. “Gods damn it. How many people are living there now?”

The Imperium official - Dragomir thought his name was Clancy, but he couldn’t remember - fidgeted with the roll of parchment in his hands. He’d looked nervous the moment he’d approached Dragomir on the bridge of the Sky Bitch, and his unease only grew by the moment. He clearly wanted to get as far away from Dragomir as possible, and Dragomir really couldn’t fault the guy. It was an opinion that was, now, quite common.

“Sixty-five thousand,” Clancy said eventually. He glanced out the viewport of the Sky Bitch. “Maybe more. That number’s from several months ago.”

“Fuck me,” Dragomir muttered. He looked out the viewport, too, biting his lip. “Too many. I thought that place was rubble. Why’re so many people still living there?”

“It’s their home,” Clancy replied. He took a sliding step away from Dragomir, one not nearly subtle enough to ignore. “They want to stay there, if they can. I don’t blame them. Do you?”

The words were a challenge, and Dragomir contemplated sniping at the man. Instead he waved Clancy away, wearied by the conversation. It wouldn’t do him any good to criticize the guy.

The army of the Non was positioned outside landed the Sky Bitch, the whole lot looking mutely miserable. They were sitting in clumps of lumpy black, a strange contrast to the bright, sunny day around them. Every cluster of Non had at least one sentry on watch, ever maintaining a close eye on the loose circle of Imperium soldiers left to ‘imprison’ them. The Non could’ve escaped at any time, Dragomir knew - even with their reduced numbers they still well outgunned the Imperium - but they looked too drained and beaten to want to go anywhere. Their war was over.

Well. Almost, anyway.

Dragomir removed his helmet and scratched his oil-black hair. It was the only part of him he’d left black, but he kept it that was as a reminder to everyone of what he was. He’d hoped to use it as a means of easing his true identity into the people around him, but it seemed to be doing the opposite. Only those who’d already known that he was a Non would willingly approach him for casual chats. Everyone else… the bridge officers, the Imperium soldiers with whom he’d been forced to liaise, people he’d known from back in Pubton… they avoided him with undisguised zeal. 

We have to start somewhere, he thought, watching one of the deck officers go about his duties. The man snuck a quick peek at Dragomir, but immediately looked a way when he noticed Dragomir’s stare. Fuck me, though, I prefer being the friendly guy. No wonder I kept quiet for so long.

“You look pensive.”

Dragomir peered around. The Baron was standing behind him, hands clasped across his belly. Eve was standing at The Baron’s side, armoured and impassive. “Can you blame me? We’re still not done.”

The Baron nodded. “I know. Any news?”

Dragomir waved vaguely towards the stairs, where Clancy had disappeared. “He’s going for Rodentia. Got ten Nothings with him. They’re tearing up everything in sight. Going slow, so most people will be evacuated, but we can’t get anywhere near the bastard because of his bigass pets. Seems to want to rip the world apart, and with that many Nothings in one place… I don’t know how we’re going to stop ‘im.”

The Baron smiled faintly, though it was apologetic. “He’s on his final legs. He wants to go out with a bang. We’re not far from peace, now…”

Dragomir snorted. Since before the penguin’s flight, The Baron had hinted at giving the Non a home of their own - ideally, the land they’d uncovered during the course of the war. They’d come from there originally, after all, and it seemed as good a place as any. Dragomir doubted the hundreds of thousands of Imperium citizens displaced or injured by the Non during their rampage through Imperium territory would be happy with just letting the Non settle down without repercussions, however. 

I wonder if I’m counted in that lot, now, Dragomir wondered. Am I going to prison if I am? Blech… well, that’s assuming I live long enough to get to prison…

“Well, he’s gonna take a lot of innocent people down with him,” Dragomir said. He looked at Eve. “You up for trashing a few more of those things, kiddo?”

Eve nodded, staring at her father. She had the scimitar from the previous battle attached to her belt. Dragomir didn’t recognize it, and wondered where she’d gotten it. There were, for that matter, so many parts of her life that he didn’t know, or understand… it saddened him to think of how much time they’d spent apart, and how, now, even though they were together again, they’d barely spent -

“Hm,” Dragomir said, mostly to himself.

The Baron didn’t notice. He was looking out at his Non, a sad expression on his tired old face. “Are we planning on leaving soon, then? He certainly won’t waste any time driving those machines to Rodentia - “

Dragomir cut The Baron off with a terse wave of his hand. His next words came as a yell. “All hands, prepare for takeoff! Get everybody ready! We’re going to take Kierkegaard on in the next three hours! Let the Imperium know that we’re leaving, too! We’ll need their help!”

Terse, hostile acknowledgements floated back to Dragomir, and on the other side of the bridge, hunched over an exposed panel full of cogs, Libby scowled up at her husband. It was her ship, after all. He didn’t care, though, because they needed to get things over and done with now. They had to, and not just because Kierkegaard would murder a lot of people if they didn’t.

“That was… sudden,” The Baron remarked, eyebrow cocked. “I know we’re in a hurry, but we’ve been recuperating for less than a day. I don’t think Logan will be happy if - “

“Logan’s not in command yet,” Dragomir barked. Stepping past The Baron, he took Eve by the hand and led her towards the captain’s chambers. “Somebody get us some food, willya? I’m starving. Make it meaty.”

The crew watched Dragomir and Eve go. Dragomir knew, he knew, that they were utterly aghast. No one touched Eve like that and lived. They’d learned that lesson just watching her in combat. Yet the unflappable death machine allowed her father to lead her into the captain’s quarters as meekly as a lamb follows its shepherd, and Dragomir was certain that she wouldn’t allow anyone besides him to do such a thing. Anyone else - her mother, her brother, The Baron, perhaps, even - would be dead in seconds.

He needed to lead her. He needed to talk to her. Because, in looking at her face, he’d seen something he did not like at all. He saw lines.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Nineteen: I need to save someone

Dragomir tossed his speech away as a harpoon came whistling towards him. He did it with a deep sense of regret, because he’d spent so much time on it, only to have more than half of the thing wasted by Kierkegaard’s actions. Success was good, obviously, but… it had been such a good speech.

I expected more of a confrontation, he mused, mind working surprisingly fast as he considered the situation. I figured we would debate this shit. Oh well. Leave it to the gods-damned penguin to screw up something else in my life. I hate that guy so much.

The harpoon slammed into the ground where Dragomir had been standing, leaving a deep scar in the dirt. Dragomir leaped nimbly to one side, his skinny legs carrying him almost twenty feet away. He was keenly aware of eyes on him from all sides, watching his every move despite the danger from above. He was fine with that. He wanted that. These people needed to see the possibilities.

The Nothings rumbled in from both flanks, moving slowly but steadily, their massive, mechanized feet leaving deep craters in the earth with each step. The Imperium’s defensive line turned their attention to the nearest Nothing, unleashing a barrage of firepower that battered its blackened hull and drove away much of the liquid darkness amassed on its ‘face’. The Nothing replied with a flurry of screams -

- but the distraction was enough for the Non. Rising to the challenge, the tired-but-not-tired-enough Non army converged on the Nothing, focusing their efforts on the nearest leg. Eight enormous Non Titans grappled with the foot, using their bulging muscles to lift it a foot into the air, several feet, ten feet, twenty. The Nothing tottered dangerously, and the liquid coursing along its surface tried to track left to take out the Non, but it was soon too late. The great machine pitched to one side, shaking the ground with such violence that almost everyone within a kilometre’s distance struggled to keep their own footing. Smaller Non fell upon the Nothing in a torrent, tearing at its thick hull with relentless determination.

This did not much reduce the Nothing’s threat level. It continued to attack, and before it went down it skewered dozens of Non, humans, orcs, and snake people. Dragomir winced at every fallen body, for once feeling blessed by his own wily frame. The harpoons were still swift, but he felt almost secure in his ability to dodge out of the way.

Weaving between a veritable hailstorm of whistling projectiles, Dragomir pounced his way towards Titan Blue and Plato. Plato had his glowing green scythe at the ready, though he looked far too scared to emerge from Blue’s shadow. The larger Non was fighting off harpoon fire from the second Nothing, using the flats of her palms to knock harpoons off course. Her accuracy was surprising, especially given that she’d been so recently hurt by Doc’s ungodly forces, and Dragomir appreciated that she was, specifically, keeping the harpoons away from -

Dragomir’s line of thought broke off as he spotted a problem-in-progress. To his left he spotted an incoming harpoon, centred on a cluster of soldiers. It was well out of Blue’s range, and the soldiers, apparently dumbfounded by the situation, were simply watching as the harpoon prepared to take their lives.

Aw, fuck, was all Dragomir managed to think. And while the old Dragomir would have avoided the situation with all his might, the current Dragomir went for it.

Patting his helmet for good luck, Dragomir hurtled himself towards the harpoon, not immediately sure what the hell he was doing. Extending his arms and legs to their full height, he planted himself in the ground beneath the harpoon’s trajectory and shoved his hands upwards, gritting his teeth. The harpoon screamed - 

- and flew off-course as Dragomir’s thin fingers pushed into its underside. For the briefest second Dragomir felt the sear of its razor-sharp tips biting into his Non skin, and he screamed, activating the Catastrophe in a fit of panic. The pain redirected itself to his forehead, and he screamed for a different reason, blood dribbling out of his ears. The Catastrophe disintegrated the liquid spear tip in a bright, green flash, and Dragomir fell to his knees, staring at his burnt hands and trembling fiercely.

The soldiers stared at him. One broke from his trance and ran; he was, clearly, the smart one, because a second harpoon quickly followed on the path of the first. Dragomir caught only the sound, because his eyes were blurry from a sudden fit of shallow breathing.

“Get… fucking… get out of…” Dragomir struggled, trying to tell the soldiers to run. 

“But - “ one of the soldiers began, holding a hand out to Dragomir.

It was one of the shorter conversations in Dragomir’s life. Mercifully, too, because Dragomir wanted to call the man a dumbass, and that was no way to engender good relations in a tense situation. His secret weapon saved Dragomir from such verbal abuse.

Eve appeared in the path of the harpoon like a ghost, a wicked scimitar in one hand. Whirling around the projectile she cut into its shaft, kicking the business end free and high into the air. It lost cohesion and changed into a splotch of black, showering troops everywhere with harmless droplets. Eve continued to slice into the shaft as it retracted back to the Nothing, depriving the machine of its ranged attacks bit by bit -

- and when she reached the Nothing, Eve promptly leaped onto its hull and began to kick through the metal. The Nothing immediately redirected its attacks to counter the new threat, but Eve was far faster than her father, and she casually danced through the rain of harpoons that vainly tracked her movements and exploded into the sky. Each fresh kick from Eve left a deeper dent in the Nothing, and soon there was a sizeable hole in the sphere, exposing its innards to the light of day. Eve plunged inside.

That’s my girl, Dragomir thought, offering Eve a vague thumbs-up. He assumed she didn’t see it.

Dragomir struggled to stand, clutching at his temples. The pain was incredibly intense, and he felt the urge to vomit, but he settled for a good old fashioned spit instead. The soldiers he’d saved watched him from a distance, all still clutching their weapons, and they gasped as Dragomir changed back into a human. It was difficult, and Dragomir had to fight to reassert his soft, pink skin, but soon he looked every inch the guardsman he’d been four years prior.

As the Nothing buckled under Eve’s internal assault, Dragomir offered the soldiers a shaky thumbs-up. “Same team, now… now, guys. Same… same team.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Eighteen: Well, we're done here

Kierkegaard’s insides turned to glass, and the unease burbling in the pit of his stomach roiled into a thick burn. 

“HE KEPT ME IMPRISONED FOR A THOUSAND YEARS!” Plato yelled, into his own cylinder. His voice was surprisingly strong, for someone with such poor self-esteem, and Kierkegaard wondered where he’d picked up his voice. He’d certainly not had one for a very long time. “HE TORTURED ME! HE BERATED ME! HE MOCKED ME! I SAW NOTHING OF THIS WORLD FOR A VERY LONG TIME, BECAUSE HE WANTED TO PLAY OUT A SICK LITTLE GAME OF MESSING WITH ME! MY LIFE WAS A NIGHTMARE UNTIL HE NEEDED TO SET ME FREE!”

That was true. Kierkegaard had been forced to throw Plato away. With Plato stuck inside his portals for so long, Kierkegaard had been powerless. He’d been forced to maintain a dimensional prison for the platypus in order to prevent him from escaping, because as powerful as Kierkegaard ways, he could still be bested. He could still be beaten. He needed to keep Plato contained.

“HE TOLD ME THINGS!” Plato quacked, voice increasing in intensity. He couldn’t quite bring himself to look straight at Kierkegaard, but he looked close enough, and somehow that filled the penguin with pride. “HE SAID HE WANTED TO KILL! HE SAID HE LOVED IT! HE SAID HE’D START WITH NON-NON AND MOVE ON TO NON, BECAUSE ‘NON-NON’ SOUNDED SILLY AND STUPID TO HIM WHEN HE SAID IT OUT LOUD! HE IS SICK, AND TWISTED, AND HE WILL DRAG YOU DOWN TO RUIN!”

Eyes slowly moved to look at Kierkegaard. A lot of them were glaring. Kierkegaard looked back, realizing that none of them, none of them, were disbelieving. They all bought in to the platypus’s words. And why not? They were true. Though his rationale was not quite as silly as Plato believed. That was just an excuse to get blood on his hands, as if he needed an excuse.


Kierkegaard’s mustachios twitched, ever so slightly.


Heads on the other side of the battlefield were, to Kierkegaard’s small delight, shaking. ‘No’. But the Non, ah, the Non, almost all of them were nodding. They seemed willing to listen, willing to learn, and if they learned too much… hell, they had already learned too much… then he was done for. They would strip him of his generalship, revoke his status among the Non, and, at best, cast him out. Perhaps they would try him for war crimes. Perhaps they would execute him. Worse, perhaps they would find a way to lock him into his own powers, forever trapped in the same limbo he’d used to ensnare so many victims over the years.

And Kierkegaard realized, or perhaps acknowledged, that he just didn’t give a fuck.

Before Dragomir could do more than start another sentence Kierkegaard activated his powers, triggering a trio of portals. One appeared a distance away, as closely to Plato as Kierkegaard could get, and he rammed an enormous claw out at the platypus. His fingers crushed downward -

- and hit empty air, because from slyness or surprise, Plato somehow managed to dodge out of the way. He fell, quacking distress, to the ground. Dragomir helped him to his feet.

Kierkegaard hopped into the second portal. He emerged above one of the two Nothings that were slowly approaching the centre of the battlefield. It didn’t take long for people to find him - but that was partly because he used the third portal to steal Dragomir’s cylinder. He held the loudspeaker up to his beak, staring down at the mass of black as the Non turned to face him, their hostility now obvious.


The Nothings had no opinion on the matter. They only knew that they’d imprinted on Kierkegaard. When he ordered, they attacked.

Though the Non were still going strong in the Imperium, Kierkegaard was not under any illusion that his army was doing well. It was down to half of its original strength after months of constant warring. That was as much by design as his pushy personality, because Kierkegaard knew he couldn’t control all of the Non. It wasn’t a done thing. So he’d concocted a campaign, a brutal, slogging, almost pointless campaign, designed to sap the Non of their innate strength and leave them susceptible to attack from within.

The attack, it seemed, had failed. Now Kierkegaard needed to extricate himself from ‘within’. ‘Within’ had gotten fruitless. And boring.

The Nothings whistled on both sides of the battlefield, flanking the Non and piercing them from above with pinpoint accuracy. Kierkegaard danced atop one of his mighty war machines, watching Non after Non fall to the flying harpoons. Soon they were screaming, a combination of fear, rage, and neutral betrayal, and Kierkegaard waved his fingers as though he were conducting a symphony, standing on one leg as he did. It was a moment he’d long anticipated, and he relished it.

The battle fell apart. The Imperium, apparently content to let the Non fall into disarray, pulled back. The Non themselves took several long minutes before they managed to rally and fight back. In that time, Kierkegaard calculated that he killed a little less than half of them. He made sure to personally kill a few with his portals, pulling the same trick he’d tried to use on Plato with greater success. When the Non showed even the slightest hint of getting at him, Kierkegaard teleported away, leaving the Nothings to fight with their last mental order still going strong.

From a distance, hiding in a tree, Kierkegaard watched as two armies pulled his Nothings down. He watched as the empire he’d kept a stranglehold on for two years abruptly, viciously turned on him. And he grinned the entire time, because he had more war machines where those came from, and most of them in near-perfect condition.

“Now,” he mumbled, stroking one mustachio, “it gets really fun.”