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Indefatigable Ch 3 Archer

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By megatarget   |   
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If I could say one nice thing for all the yelling and posturing that seems to be mentally ingrained into the Pushed, it makes for an excellent distraction.  The vampire snarled and leaped at the armored Crusader who responded with another round of metal shafted arrow.  Though the projectiles didn't seem to harm the creature, the tremendous force of impact sent it flying back towards the wall.  I tumbled away from the wall I had so recently been planted against.  My goal was the only obvious way to stop this: the shattered remains of the steamer trunk.  As I moved up into a crouch, just past the armored archer, he glanced sidelong at me.

"I am most pleased to see Milady isn't too badly hurt," he boomed, apparently lacking in any sense of volume control or practical sense.  "Lord Epic made no mention that -"  The vampire barreled over him during his commentary and the pair hit the wet ground hard.  Again, despite the obvious animal instinct, there was a more cunning intelligence at work, as the corpse had the Crusader's bow in it's one working hand, pushing on the attached arm with the other.  It could recognize a threat, that much was obvious.  I could already hear the phantom creak of metal in the air as I left my search for another stake.  My accelerated mind was racing.  The creature was far too strong to pry off and the Push Hero was in a bad position to free himself.  As much as I had my problems with Crusaders, I certainly didn't want to see him as item one on the vampire buffet.  That's when it hit me.

I hopped the pile of broken wood and rusted metal bands as, with a twist of the wrist, I let the necklace chain wrap around my fingers, until I felt the crucifix settle on the outside of my knuckles.  Whatever intelligence was at work, it considered me a minimal threat, practically ignoring me as I stepped up to it with my fist clenched.  It didn't even move to flinch as my punch came in, a glittering cross at the forefront of the blow.

Instead of the usual feeling of striking phantasmal gelatin, there was a solidity I had never experienced when striking a Pushed before.  It was accompanied, however, by a comforting warmth that came from the crucifix.  The effect on the creature, though, was far from comforting for it.  There was smoke and the fetid smell of burnt rotten meat and its head recoiled to the side as if I had fired a cannon in its face.  As it recoiled, I could just barely catch a glimpse of a cross-shaped melted hole in it's flesh, giving full view of the teeth in the beast's mouth.  In a strange reversal, what burnt the vampire had no effect on the corpse inside.  The dead thing retreated from me, leaving the armored Pushed behind.  Holding my crucifix-wrapped fist out as a ward, I extended my other hand to the Crusader.

"A little less talk, a little more action, alright?" I ordered, one eye on the vampire, who scurried and scuttled, trying to find a way around the cross.  The melted hole in its fact still smoked and refused to heal as all of its former injuries had.

"Yes, Milady, well said," he said as he took my hand to help right himself.  Unlike some Pushtech suits I had seen in the past few months, his was lighter.  It seemed it's primary purpose wasn't to make him stronger or more powerful, it was all based around the crossbow.  As he stood, he lined up a shot.  "Once through the heart!  Ho ho!"  I would have palmed my face had I not been fighting for my life.

As once more the overpowered twang of his crossbow echoed in the tiny chamber, the monster, alerted to the danger to its vital organ, put on a burst of unnatural speed, almost disappearing from sight for a moment.  The steel arrow sunk deep into the brick wall as I tried to turn to keep the corpse facing the crucifix.  I very much desired to cuff this guy right upside the head, but I was far too concerned with keeping myself alive.  The bad, bad thing was that I didn't see the creature any longer, just ...

I grabbed the Crusader by a shoulder and pulled us both hard towards the shattered crate right as the cloud of mist formed into a pouncing vampire.  While initially surprised, I was relieved that my would-be savior had enough sense to roll with the pull and came up in a crouch, having already reacquired his target.  There was a click and whir as something in his weapon's ammo feed changed right as he fired.  Even a preternatural creature can apparently be off-balance; this time the corpse didn't blur out of the way.  The head of this arrow was different and exploded into a weighted net.  The bow-driven weight of it yanked the creature off it's feet as the weights bound it together into a neat package.  Of course, this could only hold a creature that could turn to mist for mere moments.  I ran at the struggling mass, the cross held outward in front of me.  It hadn't turned to mist when confronted with the crucifix so maybe it just couldn't.

"Zounds, it's just like the stories say!" the archer expounded.  "Methinks I would have loaded wooden bolts if I would have known."

"Christ, man," I replied over my shoulder, "there's wood all around you.  Just grab something pokey and stake this bastard."  I held the minute cross just out of the creature's struggling reach, honestly trying to believe in what it represented.  Strangely, concentrating so hard on it seemed to be taking something out of me, but I shook my head and held off the unnatural fatigue in my body.  There was a moment of rummaging, then the sound of rubberized sole on stone.

"Make room, Milady," came the voice from behind me.  I took a step to the side and then came that horribly loud ch-chunk of his bow.  I didn't even catch it's flight, only the violence of a huge splinter of wood crudely but powerfully ripping through the corpse's chest.  There was a final, soul-wrenching shriek and, to outward appearance, the writhing beast slowly shriveled to a corpse-like state.  For me, the phantom shell simply dissipated, leaving behind only the sad reality of the situation: a dead rotting corpse with a big sliver of wood impaling him.

"Ye gods, what a vile beast!  'Twas most boon that -"

The moment the corpse returned to it's natural state, the strange fatigue left me instantly, giving me plenty of strength to grab the Crusader by the plastic sport pads that existed underneath his Pushtech armor and shove him roughly, not so hard as to hurt him, into the nearest wall.  He let out a cry of surprise as I glared holes into his visor.

"Atlanta is not a Crusader town," I growled, anger welling up inside of me unbidden.  "Your beloved demigod knows that."  I reared back a fist.  "You've got ten seconds to tell me why you're here and if 'because Epic wanted me to be safe' is the only one, I swear to all I hold dear I'll -"

"Please, Milady, still thy rage," the archer begged, raising his hands either defensively or diplomatically.  "Though t'would be folly to lie and say that Lord Epic's concern for your safety does not often weigh upon his glorious brow, it is not why I was bidden to come here."  I didn't lower my fist, but I did loosen my grip on his mock armor.  Where my grip had cracked the plastic shell, the phantom armor was deformed and twisted.  "Verily, Milord had tracked vile scoundrels from the Humans for God group, to this very chamber.  He suspected some new treachery when his omnipresence failed him suddenly whilst trying to pinpoint what exactly had happened."  I so badly wanted an excuse to send this guy packing back to Epic, beaten, bruised, with his tail between his legs, as a message to keep his nose out of Atlanta.  There was a long moment as I held the archer to the wall.

I would have felt totally justified with my original plan.  Just as Eric had predicted, he and I were now in a perpetual dance, as he tried to spread the Crusader movement across the country.  Already most of the Deep South embraced his vigilante justice and obeisance to the Pushed as some kind of messed-up Second Coming, not to mention scattered pockets around the world.  Growing pockets, I would have added.  I spent as much time making public appearances and political speeches to try to turn the populace away from his insane philosophy as actually saving lives, and far more than the time I invested in to stopping the Whiteout permanently.  However, did our personal war mean that I should hurt a man who came here tracking something that was worse than either of us?

The Humans for God movement were terrorist assholes, plain and simple; there was a reason why they were dubbed 'the Hogs' early on.  They weren't really religious, except at the grunt level.  The religion was just a ploy to bring in gullible, jealous bigots who saw the Pushed in the same way they saw anything that wasn't like themselves: with hate.  I first ran into them just after the Whiteout, when I first met the Atlanta Five.  At that point, they had been set up and manipulated by Ian Mackenzie, the man who made the entire Battle of Atlanta happen and the only other person I knew of for sure that had the same strange abilities I had.  Since then, they managed to take root like some disgusting weed.  Taking them out was one of the few points Epic and I agreed on.

What was more important?  Taking a cheap shot at Eric or saving lives?

I unclenched my fist and settled the Push Hero on his feet.  I turned towards the corpse.

"So this guy had been with the Hogs?"  I kneeled down for a closer look.  "Did you or Epic have any idea he was, you know, like this?"

"Yes to the first and no to the second, Milady," he replied.  "At least if it was so, Milord did not see fit to inform me as such."  He cleared his voice.  "Allow me to formally introduce myself.  They call me the Argent Archer.  'Tis an honor to -"

"Please, no."  I didn't even look up.  The fading adrenaline as my mind and body down-shifted combined with the horrid stench of death was making my stomach nervous enough.  The way he was treating me wasn't helping.  "Just ... no more of this 'Milady' crap.  Let's focus on the task at hand, okay?"

"Oh."  There was a distinct hint of disappointment in his voice.  "As you wish."  I heard an electronic whine.  "Whilst Mi-, you, investigate the former beast, I will employ my visual sensors and quest for more clues to what transpired."  His booted footfalls began to move around behind me as I steeled myself to investigate the dead terrorist further.


Now that I had some peace and quiet, a few things were immediately obvious.  First, my communications were down.  While Rachel's constant tinkering had greatly improved the robustness of the uniform's electronics, any one of those slams or tumbles could have broken or shorted any piece of the gear.  Second, I recognized the face, even in this early state of rot.  This was the third of the seven victims, which meant that this wasn't our man.  Or at least he wasn't the only one.  I felt along the discolored flesh of the neck and, just as with the girl's body across the room, there were two distinct circular wounds.  His wounds were larger than hers, which brought a chill to my bones.  This wasn't the end of the nightmare ahead, this was only the beginning.

Forcing my nerves to quiet, I continued searching the body.  There were still tatters of an olive green wife-beater T-shirt tucked into the pants, black with a military cut and plenty of pockets.  I rifled through them and, in short order, had a small pile of personal belongings to examine.  A battered leather wallet with identification and some cash, a half-empty matchbook, three filterless cigarettes, a roll of fishing line, a multi tool, and a few spare bullets, that is all I cataloged.  It seemed little to go on, but there was undoubtedly something I was missing.  I was brought out of my thoughts when Archer spoke up from across the room.

"Mi ... Indomitable," he corrected himself quickly, "methinks you should lay eyes upon this."  I rose from my crouch and turned towards the voice.  The armored Crusader was crouched over the girl's body, having laid it out respectfully.  More specifically, he was looking at her teeth.  My stomach took a queer turn for some reason.  "Oh, and bring another stake of wood from the rubble.  T'would be wise to do so quickly."

The teeth are what confirmed it, even if I thought to lie to myself about the growing sick feeling in my stomach, the indication of another Push presence added to the room.  She was starting to grow phantasmal fangs, very real to anyone besides myself.  It was with a heavy heart that I drove the large splinter of wood in my hand through the body's chest.  To his credit, Archer seemed equally disturbed by both the prospect and the deed itself.  I was sure he was saying a prayer as I finished the grim task.

"My most sincere apologies," Archer said, breaking the moment of silence.  "If I did but have a wooden bolt, I would have spared you the need to do such a grim task yourself, but I did not dare leave the body unattended, even for a moment."  I nodded slowly.  He was right, and he was being honest, I was quite sure.  "On perhaps a brighter spot of news, I do believe I have constructed at least a partial scenario based on some physical and chemical evidence my scanners have located."

"Alright, lay it on me, then you can head on back to Epic with your mission done, right?  No more terrorist, after all."

"Tish-tosh!" he exclaimed.  "I could never leave this fair city in such peril.  Not only must there be more than one of these 'Hogs', I would most certainly believe there are more of these vile, infectious monsters as well."  I contemplated arguing with him, but there was a raw passion in his voice.  Whatever insanity the Whiteout had pumped into Archer's brain, the words he was saying right now and his dedication to them were coming from something deeper.

"Fine, but this isn't Crusader-land."  I raised a warning finger.  "We follow the rules and the law as best we can, got it?"

"Understood, Mi-, Indomitable."  Archer gestured towards the crate with a gauntleted hand.  "That was not part of the original furnishings of this dank chamber.  The earth within does not match the composition of the mud either in this chamber or the surrounding area."  He then pointed at, though now heavily obscured by the chaos of battle, what seemed to be in my headlamp's light as drag tracks.  "That was where they dragged it in."

"They?"  I wasn't surprised that Blood-sucking Terrorist wasn't alone, the Hogs were rarely solo acts, but I wanted as much information as I could get while Archer was feeling informative.

"Oh yes," he eagerly replied.  "First and most obviously, the weight of a steamer trunk with that much soil would be unwieldy for one normal man, no matter how strong, but there's more.  Performing a digital reconstruction of the trunk, there was a false bottom in which the soil was.  There are trace residues of gun oil, metal shavings, and explosive chemicals in some of the wood.  To conclude -"

"We had terrorists with a crate of arms, explosives, and something hidden," I finished for him.  "Do you think -"

"I do, I'm afraid."  He nodded grimly.  "The quibble remains though if they knew what they had or if that was a surprise set for them by another."  I started to pace, as was my nature when thinking.

"They obviously didn't live down here, even before ... you know."  I gestured at the corpses.  "They at least had the sense to booby trap the entrance, which that beast probably couldn't do.  So where's the rest of them?"

"Perhaps I could pick back up the trail on the surface?"

"Maybe, but that booby trap?  It collapsed the tunnel.  It might have scattered any evidence of their trail and I certainly didn't see anything obvious topside on my way here."  I wandered over to the pile of personal effects and fingered the matchbook.  "It's a stretch but -"

"Not at all!"  The silver-clad hero stomped over and I tossed him the matchbook.  "As a lad, I favored a good puff myself and t'would often need matches.  Most likely the villain picked those up at some common hangout."  He shrugged.  "'Tis a start.  Perhaps the clues and this ... 'Paul's Pub' establishment will converge, eh?"

"It's a start," I conceded.  "I can get the rest of this evidence to my sources, see what they can dig up.  First, though ..."  As the last of the adrenalin pumped out of my system, the pain in my forearm was turning into agony.  I held it protectively to my stomach.  "Topside and medical attention."

As if on some cue, there was a distant rumble and the distinct sound of cracking ice.  Wonderful.  Here came the other ex.
© 2014 - 2020 megatarget
Here it is, the last sneak peek preview (so far) for Indefatigable, the second book of The Push Chronicles!

It's Irene alongside her new ally against one vampire.  But does the end of one battle start a new one when she confronts Epic's Crusader?

As always, thoughts, input, and critiques are welcome!

EDIT!  Some wording and typo fixes
Comments6
anonymous's avatar
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LotusJadeThorn's avatar
LotusJadeThornHobbyist Writer
Suggested bits to omit (in bold):
"Though the projectiles didn't seem to particularly harm the creature, the tremendous force of impact sent it flying back towards the wall." (Crafty intensifier and self-explanatory)
"
I used the distraction to tumble away from the wall I had so recently been planted against." (Already stated it was a distraction. Going straight into the action would flow better, I think)
"... that came from the crucifix itself." (I dunno. It's like a hamster's tail; serves no real purpose)
"... 
refused to heal as all of its other injuries had." (More of a rephrase perhaps? Reads awkwardly. Maybe "... as its former injuries had" seeming as they healed already?)
"
It was with a heavy heart that I drove the large splinter of wood in my hand through the body's heart." (Repetition of 'heart' doesn't read particularly well. Can be easily amended with "... through the body's chest"? :))

Great read! Those moments of dry humour tickled my funny bone ^_^ And Argent Archer is sure a character :P Good job with him! 
 
megatarget's avatar
megatargetProfessional Writer
I'll get on those right away!  Thanks for the catches!
LotusJadeThorn's avatar
LotusJadeThornHobbyist Writer
That's fine :3
HeadsnTails's avatar
HeadsnTailsHobbyist
I think I like ye knight of the age of dragons and archaic magick. The only thing I caught right off the bat was a typo that you may want to fix as quickly as possible: "an olive green wife-beater T-shit," unless you mean to say he wore designer dung.
megatarget's avatar
megatargetProfessional Writer
BWAH!  Yeah, that was NOT intentional!  Let me fix that NOW.
LotusJadeThorn's avatar
LotusJadeThornHobbyist Writer
Hahaha XD
anonymous's avatar
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