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.

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