(Eh, why the Hell not, this is a review of Super Troopers 2)
Summary: Due to an Ďunfortunate incident involving Fred Savageí the old gang have lost their jobs as police officers are called back for one last chance as a small town in Canada (due to a redrawing of the boarder) is about to be granted American citizenship. Along the way, they get into a feud with the local Mounties theyíre replacing and uncover a smuggling operation.
The Good: Itís funny, you probably wonít bust a gut, but, the jokes tend to land, and, even when they do resort to gross-out humor, they never linger on it long enough to where it gets annoying. Thereís a ton of little references in here from the first movie which they manage to make flow fairly organically from the situation, and generally speaking, it is just a reference, an off handed comment and then we move on. Thereís some decent performances here as well, Rob Lowe did fairly good job, managing to be over the top without being totally cartoonish.
The Bad: Even though the movie sort of acknowledges that itís a re-tred of the first, it bares mentioning that there are a lot of repeated beats in this movie. I donít really like what they did to Farva, whereas before he was, well, overzealous and Dumb, now heís a straight up asshole, and it honestly makes him a lot less tolerable. Also, thereís sort of this double twist at the end that kind of hit me the wrong way, Iím usually all for a happy ending but (and Iím really trying to avoid spoilers here) I think the movie would have worked better the way it was going.
Final Thoughts: This movie is essentially a reunion special, and it knows that, owns it, and still manages to be a fairly decent picture. I guess what I like best is that it manages to create an atmosphere of humor, the jokes hit very rapid fire, but not in an obtrusive way, it's sort of like a perfect storm of comedy, the only problem being that they never manage to pull out any big laughs and the whole thing only hits at kind of an even pace. So, I canít say that this surpasses the original, but it makes a good companion piece and, yeah, in the end Iíd say itís worth watching.
Ichabod Crowley had intended to sleep at some point, perhaps just a few hours to take the edge off of his fatigue. Yet, before he knew it, sunrise was already peeking over the horizon and he hadn’t even reached his front yard.
“You’re being a bit sluggish,” he commented to the driver
“Sorry Mistah Crowley,” Toulon turned his jack-o lantern head and showed off the bits of metal still stuck into it, “Think one o’ the tires got hurt, didn’t wanna push her.”
“Of course,” Ichabod nodded, knowing there was no point to argue.
Toulon knew full well that any damage would be reversed in his next summoning, so damaging it further really didn’t matter. They’d had back and fourths on this a few times with neither really gaining ground, Ichabod owned the car, but it really was Toulon’s responsibility and his connection to it went to a level beyond ownership. In the end, the damage was cosmetic at best, but, the damage itself was to Toulon like stubbing his toe or smashing a finger, of course he was going to be irritable, there was just nothing for it. Truthfully, Ichabod respected his driver enough to let him have these little tantrums, they tended to pass quickly enough, what he found irritating however was the motion of the vehicle itself, for some reason, he could never fall asleep in a car.
Still, closing his eyes in a vain attempt, he tried to while away the hours listening to the repetitive thrum of the engine. It almost worked, for a moment, though perhaps it was just exhaustion, stress catching up with him and a body’s actual need for recovery. Then he smelled smoke and the smooth rhythm of the engine turned into a choppy sputter that left them careening over to the side of the road, though Toulon managed to keep them from going into a ditch. Ichabod opened his eyes and saw the house in the distance, he waited a few minutes before leaving the car, slamming the door in his exit.
“Hey, what…” Toulon began.
“You did that on purpose,” Ichabod accused, cutting him off before his driver could retort, “Don’t make excuses, I get it, I know how precious you are about your car, and I’m sorry I scratched the paint, but stop acting like a child.”
“I didn’t…” the harried scarecrow insisted, leaning out of the car to make his point.
“No…” Ichabod held out a hand, telling his friend to keep at a distance while he forced himself to calm down, this was not Toulon’s fault after all, none of it was, why the Hell did he tell Della that it would only take him three days, “Just fix the car, I’ll go the rest of the way on foot.”
“But Mistah Crowley…”
“When you’re done, pull the car into the shed and snuff your candle.”
“So what, you’re sendin’ me to my room now?” Toulon scoffed at his retreating back, though Ichabod never turned around he could have sworn to hearing the scarecrow mutter that, “It was just a joke.”
The house was only a mile or so away, about thirty minutes at an easy pace, but Ichabod was dragging his feet, breathing in the cool morning air and trying desperately to clear his head. The car came screaming past him at full speed not a few minutes later, but, eyes down and on the road, hands stuffed into his pockets, he paid it no mind. He took the time as a respite, organizing his thoughts and intentions. There was no time at all to waste, and, if he wanted any rest before the finale, he would have to plan his moves diligently.
Finally arriving at his front doorstep, Ichabod removed his clothes, the coat and vest, both folded carefully and placed on a table next to the entryway, with his hat topping the pile. Off in an archway leading to the hall, he caught a glimpse of Margaret, fresh from a morning shower and already on her way to the kitchen.
“Oh, hello,” she smiled, “Did you just get back?”
“Another job well done,” Ichabod nodded.
“And payment?” she wondered.
“It was a free repeat,” he cringed nervously tugging at the duck tape around his neck, “Sorry, but I have to obey the company bylines.”
“Right,” she scoffed, shaking her head, “It might interest you to know that Lady Gilespie called just after you left, she apparently thinks that her house is due for another cleansing.”
Ichabod ripped the duct tape off of his stitches at the very thought, though, sadly, this is where most of his income tended to manifest itself. The Cleansing Rituals were essentially an overwrought séance, done easily enough by placing a few sigils here and there, but, to sell it as honest magic there was an element of pageantry that he just couldn’t stand. Wandering around like a fool, telling stories to disillusioned old ladies and their besotted husbands, the worst part was ‘channeling the spirit’. It wasn’t a hard spell to do, finding a stray ghost was never overly difficult, the salt created the aura and glow, and the rest was just make believe, spinning a tale of sorrow, love, adventure. Once, he did take pride in these shows, but the years had hardened his heart to them, leaving him feeling akin to a birthday clown, spending four hours with a smile painted on his face while everyone laughed and giggled at his stories.
His own problems aside, there simply wasn’t any time to deal with it.
“No,” he shook his head, already heading off towards the cellar.
“What?” Margaret blinked at him, “Look, I know she’s a pill, but, it’s paying work, you can’t pass this up.”
“I said no,” Ichabod insisted, “Not today, and if I get any more calls then… tell them I’m on vacation.”
“So you take time off now?” Margaret scoffed, and when he continued to ignore her, “Ichabod! Don’t walk away from me!”
Reluctantly turning around, he saw Margaret standing there with her arms folded, rapidly tapping her foot.
“Please don’t do that,” he complained.
“Ichabod,” she fixed him with a steely glare, “I’m using the mom voice.”
“Stop it,” he anxiously warned as his eyes broke contact with her own.
“Ichabod!” she warned again, more sternly this time, “What’s going on?”
He backed away, not sure how to respond, there was a reason he was keeping her in the dark, and all the rest as well. In the end this was his mess and he would clean it up. Involving the rest would just complicate matters, and he couldn’t let them get hurt.
“Can…can I ask you…” he walked back towards her, hands outstretched and pleading, “Please, Margaret, to trust me?”
Her foot finally stopped tapping as she watched him move closer, examining his face.
“Of course I trust you…” she muttered as he placed his hands on her shoulders.
“Then…” he closed his eyes, trying to collect himself before looking at her again, “I will tell you everything, but, not today, not now.”
“Because I’ll talk you out of it,” she surmised, her gaze narrowing, “You have the look of a man about to do something intensely stupid.”
“You can’t talk me out of it,” he responded.
“So, you’ve already done something stupid then,” it wasn’t a question, she knew as much, her hand reached up and touched his cheek, her gaze finally softening, “Ichabod, tell me what is going on.”
Closing his eyes, he let out a pained groan and finally gave in.
“Come with me then,” he told her and turned towards the cellar.
She hesitated, but only for a moment and fell in step behind him, arms still folded.
The cellar itself was hardly that, the house had been build upon a cavern with a few staircases added to make the journey downward a touch safer. The intent, he supposed, was to follow the path with a flickering candle or torch, but Ichabod had taken the liberty of adding a lighting system upon his annexing of the place. Though he had taken precautions to protect the wires from the creeping damp and mold, there was nothing to be done about the moisture that seeped in from every corner, causing rot in the staircase that creaked, groaning under their every step.
“Be careful,” he warned Margaret, “I’ve been needing to replace these for a while.”
She gave a nod and made an effort to watch her footing. Ichabod looked back at her, his hands shaking as he grasped the railing.
“This is your first time down here, isn’t it?” he observed, needing to fill the air with something other than guilt.
“Honestly, I always thought that door was painted on,” she admitted.
“Well, there’s a reason for that,” Ichabod continued, “This used to be one of my grandfather’s little hideaways, he’d come here now and again, bring his whole flock to sacrifice, revel in death and ancient demonic rites, when my father deposed him, well he just sort of built the house around the entrance because it was a rather out of the way place, at the time anyway.”
“It feels…” Margaret shuddered, pulling her arms out to hug herself, “Wrong…”
“It should,” he insisted as they journeyed further into the bowls of the cave, “My grandfather was a rather disturbed individual, what he did down here was akin to scraping a rusty needle across the skin of the world until it drew blood, then digging into the wound until it got infected,” he glanced back at Margaret to see that she was shaking even worse than him now and let out a sigh, “I’m sorry, this story’s probably not helping the atmosphere.”
“No I just…” she gripped her own shoulders tightly as another shiver wracked her body, “Can’t you feel that?”
“I…” Ichabod paused, looking at her, she was positively quaking, yet, even at a young age, he’d come down here and barely reacted, he’d felt the presence of course, seen it, but, even now, his shaking hands had more to do with nerves than the aura of evil that infected this place, putting his own introspection aside, he thought up a lie so that he could face her again, “I’ve spent a lot of time down here, it’s a bit like holding your hand in a flame, you get used to it,” he could see that his words were hardly a comfort and made to walk back up the stairs, “I’m sorry, this was a mistake, we should…”
“No,” she moved towards him, still hugging herself against the seeming chill, “No I want…”
She let out a gasp as a one of the planks shattered under her feet and she came tumbling forward. Ichabod moved to catch her but something else got there first, a metal glove trailing a pillar of smoke as it whipped through the air and grasped her arm long enough to allow Margaret a chance to regain her balance. Though she turned to it, apparently intent to thank her savior, the response she gave was one of horror and abject shock, she assumed the gauntlet was a severed arm and cast it away with a frightened shout. Ichabod took a breath, attempting to lower his heart rate, he hadn’t even realized it could beat that fast, and the hand raised itself from the ground, flying back towards the suit of armor standing below them on the stairs.
The suit shifted awkwardly until he was standing upright, he could almost be mistaken for a statue if not for the black smoke halo seeping out from his visor.
“Faldecto,” Ichabod made the introduction and the suit of armor bowed, stiffly, but very sincere, “Margaret, this is one of Father’s old familiars.”
“Oh,” she bit her lip, composing herself to return the courtesy, “I’m sorry, you…startled me.”
“I was given a start as well ma’am,” Faldecto admitted, his deep voice echoing from within his own helmet, “You’ll have to accept my apologies for such rudeness, it has been far too long since I’ve entertained a guest other than the young master.”
“Fal is a ghast,” Ichabod explained, reading her next question before she ever said it, “One bound to this suit of armor, he was meant to act as Father’s bodyguard, back when he was…still working as a…ward against evil,” he chose his words carefully, becoming visibly agitated, “And when he quit, the old…Father chose to keep him here as an area guardian, keeping stray children and animals out of the cavern, lest they be corrupted by the miasma permeating this place.”
“So, you’ve just been locked down here, all this time?” Margaret wondered.
“All the time?” Fal glanced at Ichabod and shrugged, “No, and it’s not that I mind, though, the constant polishing,” he tapped a fist against his burnished chest, showing the copper coloration to be rust stains rubbed smooth, “It gets a bit tedious.”
“I…” Margaret tried to laugh but was uncertain if it would be perceived as rude, “Can only imagine.”
Faldecto made a noise of accent and disappeared down the stairs, his metal boots stomping away yet barely creaking the boards under his footsteps.
“I didn’t hurt his feeling did I?” Margaret asked.
“He’s a bit odd,” Ichabod admitted, “It’s a consequence of being a shut in for over a century.”
“Over…” Margaret paused, she had been coming down and now stood even with Ichabod, “How old is your father?”
“Does it matter?” he sighed and reached out to her, “Let’s go back up.”
“No,” she repeated, pushing him away, “I didn’t come down here to give up halfway.”
“Fine,” he traveled the rest of the way in silence, keeping an eye to make certain she did not stumble again.
Together they reached the bottom and walked out into a temple with a large stone altar, the whole place was stained with slashes and sigils, all made with blood that would never wash away. Margaret had to cover her mouth as her stomach threatened to heave its contents, Ichabod felt it as well, though, not nausea, more like a tingle, an invisible jester running their finger along his spine. He reached out to her and she held her hand up, telling him to back away.
“I’ve got it,” she insisted, gulping hard, forcing herself to control what was happening to her body, “Now why the Hell are we down here in this miserable place?”
In the midst of her rage something soft fell about her shoulders and she looked to see Faldecto placing on her an, admittedly, old and very much faded, but, thick and warm, green fur cape.
“Apologies,” he bowed again before backing away to stand at a respectful distance, his hands clasped in front of him, “The Lady seemed to have taken on a chill.”
Margaret blushed hard and tried to hide her red face within the puff of the collar while muttering an almost unintelligible thanks. Ichabod glanced between them and shook his head, pulling Margaret along towards the sacrificial altar.
“Fal,” he nodded to the suit of armor and watched it snap to attention, “Please, go retrieve one of the jars.”
“Um…” Faldecto stammered, “I-if you’ll pardon young master, THE Jars?”
“Yes,” he agreed and then turned to Margaret as Fal stomped across the temple to a foot locker refrigerator on the other side of the table, “Is the cape helping at all?”
“A little,” she admitted, still rubbing her arms beneath the robe, “Jesus, why didn’t your father just seal this place off.”
“Well, that one’s actually not on him,” Ichabod explained, “He couldn’t, this place, it can’t just be cured, it…needs to dissipate, sealing it off and trying to hold all of this evil in would be like jamming a potato in someone’s exhaust pipe, it needs time.”
There was a loud clunk that actually made Margaret jump but it was just Faldecto setting down a mason jar containing some disturbing purple liquid on the table.
“Apologies,” he bowed again, backing away.
Margaret raised an eyebrow, walking towards it with hesitation.
“Alright, let’s see what this-OH MY GOD!” she backed away quickly, tripping over the hem of the cape and falling down, even tangled in the cloth like she was, Margaret seemed inconsolable, horrified beyond reason, she simply pointed at the jar and screamed, “WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!”
“Huh?” Ichabod stared into the jar and was able to make out the shape of a severed face floating in the solution and pinched the bridge of his nose, “You really had to grab this one?” when Faldecto just gave him a shrug, he let out a frustrated sigh, “Okay, it’s not what it looks like.”
“WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THAT?!”
“I made it,” Ichabod responded.
“YOU-what?” Margaret quirked her head to the side while Faldecto reached down to offer her a hand up.
“Yes,” Ichabod rolled his eyes, “I tinkered around with an old alchemist remedy for burns, I combined it with a few chemicals I looked up online that scientists were using to create artificial skin, and added a few exotic elements so that it would dry a little quicker, then I ran the solution through a 3D printer they have at the university a few towns over, the bones were pretty much the same, just, a different formula and I had to cross assemble them myself because they needed a certain detailing that the printer just wasn’t up for, tendons were actually a lot easier, just condensing the formula for skin into a stronger product, cartilage was a bitch though, I had to find a substance that was rubberized but maintained its consistency in a fluid environment, but it also needed to absorb and allow passage of liquid nutrients so as not to impede the diffusion of glucose and bone marrow, I wound up just using hardened animal fats and then there’s the organs, which I just took from a pig and…”
“WHOA!” Margaret cut him off, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Ichabod caught himself and realized he was babbling, taking one last deep breath, he tried to start again.
“I’m trying to build a new body for Lizzie.”
“Well the burn remedy was essentially a fake skin, I just worked outwards from there, the biggest problem was the hair though, I wound up scrounging what I could from some road kill, so she might have a white patch, but other than that, it should work.”
Margaret finally took Faldecto’s hand and stood on her own two feet where she began to pace the room, making a very visible attempt to digest all that had been said to her.
“How the Hell…” she sputtered, still dumbfounded, “How did you manage to pull any of this off? How did you do this without us noticing?”
“I have a very active nightlife,” Ichabod stated simply, “Once I had the chemical components worked out it was just a matter of sculpting, so, five or six hours a night for about thirteen years, baring any extensive work, I still had a collective twenty-eight thousand hours to do this.”
“You…” she took an unconscious step away from him, “You’re insane…”
“I’m…” he almost scoffed and then caught sight of the jar and his sister’s face, what would be his sister’s face, whirling about inside it like some disturbed paper airplane caught in an updraft.
Picking up the jar, he looked into it with a grimace, in spite of all of his work, and how long had it taken him to craft just this one piece, there was no way to know how she might turn out. He had taken pains to sculpt all the necessary parts for a ten year old girl, to make her as he remembered his baby sister before she had died, but this was a bad science at the best of times. Though certain he could pull it off, with help from Della, there was no guarantee how whole the creature he was making would turn out, that it would be anything more than just a perfect doll, unable to grow, or breed. Would she have a full life or be stuck in the frame of a child forever? Soon enough he would cast that stone and likely never see the result, but that was his gift to her.
Touching the stitches on his neck, he reminded himself of the oath he had sworn on the day of his resurrection, that he would find a way, that he would save his sister no matter the cost, but, he was just a man, nothing more, and this was all he could do. An imperfect body for his beloved Lizzie, yes, perhaps she would only have a half life, but she would live, and that was all he could give her. Yet, it was possible, in fact likely, this oath had become an obsession, that this obsession had broken him. Sixteen years he had worked for it, shutting all else from his life but the raw hatred he felt for the demons who had ended both of their existences and taken so much from them. When was the last time he had felt anything else, physical or emotional? Sixteen years, and in all that time, this drive and desire were all he knew.
No, he admitted to himself at last and gently placed the jar back into the fridge, it had broken him.
“I am…” he agreed, closing the lid and leaning over to look at Margaret while his eyes began to well up, “I am insane, and I am sorry, but this is the world I live in, this is the price and This,” he placed his hand on the fridge before wiping away a few tears as nonchalantly as possible, “This is the cost and I am…I will pay it.”
He had walked around the table with his eyes turned down, never expecting to run into Margaret, or for her open arms to wrap around his shoulders. Ichabod had no strength left, he fought the tears and lost, weeping onto her neck as she propped him up like a ragdoll in her arms and waited for Ichabod to stop crying.
“Why,” she pulled away from him at last, just to look in his eyes, “Why did you hide this?”
“I didn’t want Father to know,” he stated, still trying to clean his face off.
“You don’t want your father to know that you’re resurrecting his daughter?” she laughed, “Don’t you think that’s a little selfish?”
“That man has no right…to call himself…” Ichabod struggled with the words, vainly trying to regain his composure, “He’s not…not him…” failing, he let out a sigh and spoke as plainly as he could, “It’s you Margaret, I won’t let it be him, and it can’t be me.”
“What are you saying?”
“That, the day after tomorrow, at midnight, I am,” he drew himself up with as much confidence as he possessed, “I will bring Lizzie back, and when I do, I want you to take her away from here.”
Margaret simply blinked at him, stunned beyond belief.
“I, um,” Ichabod continued in her silence, “I have documents, I had a forger work them out, they should hold up…”
“Ichabod,” she whispered, “You can’t ask me to do this.”
“I can ask you to consider,” Ichabod responded, parting from her and sitting atop the table, “Margaret, you’re like family to me, there’s no one else I would ever trust, no one I could, just, please, think on it, and…don’t tell Father, make your own choice.”
“And, if I say no?” she wondered.
“Hm,” he gave her a sad smile, tears threatening to well up again, “It won’t be ideal, but I will know what to do, take your time though, and Faldecto,” he gestured to the suit of armor that had been patiently waiting in the wings, “Show her out please.”
“Of course young master,” he walked forward and gently took Margaret by the arm, leading her away.
On the stairs, she was still reeling from what she had seen, what she had been told.
“He can’t be serious,” she muttered under her breath, “He can’t ask me to do this.”
“He can,” Fal iterated for her, “And I believe he has.”
“But…this is…FUCKING insane, he can’t just spring this on me like that, I mean I don’t want to be a mother, I’m on the pill for Christ sake, he, he just, he can’t make a choice like this unilaterally, he has to…Oh my God, Victor, what the Hell am I supposed to tell him.”
“Nothing, I believe that was the request.”
“I can’t just…no, no, this is too big I have to…”
“Ma’am, if you will pardon the asking, how long have you resided within the manor?”
“I-what?” she looked at him confused, “I don’t know, about, eight years, why?”
“And yet, we’ve never met before,” he stopped walking and returned her gaze, a pair of white orbs glowing from within the haze that filled his helmet, “Does that strike you as strange?”
“No more than anything else,” Margaret shrugged.
“If you will forgive me ma’am, might I posit a theory? That there are things which have occurred in this house to which you, yourself, have not been made aware, certain…proclivities, and eccentricities to which you could not know, for example, I have not seen the young master crying like that since he fell down the well and broke his leg.”
There was nothing she could say, for a moment she thought of asking ‘what well’ but, in the end, did it really matter? Faldecto moved away from her, assuming a more relaxed position that looked strangely uncomfortable as he folded his arms and leaned against the cavern wall at an almost perfect ninety degree angle.
“You likely don’t know about the old well, it went dry years ago, and was boarded up, the young master was a boy of no more than four, needing constant supervision, and yet, Master Victor, “ he practically spat out the title, “Had decided that his bottle of gin required the bulk of his supervision, thus, a boy wandered his front yard, and had not the knowledge to watch his step, trod upon a rotted beam and fell through.”
Faldecto spoke evenly enough, still, the light within his helmet gave away his emotions, piercing and harsh, almost hypnotic in their pulsating glow.
“The mother worked as a school teacher, the occupation requiring the bulk of her time, and the father never heard the cries, but I did, a crack at the base of the well had flooded this area a century before and allowed his wailing moans to pierce the rock and magnify, echoing off the chamber walls, it took an hour to find his location, more still to widen the gap just enough to pull him through,” he raised his hands, showing how his mad clawing through dirt and stone had marred and split the fingers of the gauntlets, efforts had been made to fix them of course, but the damage was still readily visible, “I was careful, worried that I could cut him, and carried the boy into the manor, but coward away at the light, too long, beneath these floorboards, hidden in this cave, I convinced myself to leave him on the couch, assuming the Father would find him soon enough, and I waited, for longer than I would care to estimate, on the other side of that door, only to hear the mother scream.”
Staring into those cracks and scars that had been carven deeply into his hands, as though looking into an abyss, Faldecto came back to himself and pushed away from the wall to stand before her once more.
“I tell you this story, only because it is mine,” he explained, “Know that the Young Master is the hard sort, but he is not a man of cruelty, nor would he make a request without reason, I won’t ask that you see it from his perspective, but take from it what you will and make your choice,” he helped her up another step and then pointed to the door, not more than ten feet away, “Fair thee well, my Lady Margaret.”
“And to you sir,” she had no other words for him but a weak curtsy in response to his kindness.
“Uh, ma’am,” he took hold of the cape she was still wearing, “If you will please?”
“O-of course,” she apologized, quickly shrugging out of it, “Sorry.”
Wordlessly, Faldecto bowed to her and turned away, already folding the garment as he disappeared once again. Margaret shook her head, trying to clear the buzzing thoughts whirling around in her brain, certainly she had asked for this, but, had never expected things to run so deep. At the absolute worst, she figured Ichabod had botched a job and was needing time to get his confidence back, this, was just too much.
“Where the Hell’s breakfast?” Victor demanded.
Margaret stopped, realizing she was in the house once more, she hardly remembered opening the entrance or walking through it, in fact, she was in the kitchen and just staring at the stove. Stricken, feeling as though the room was spinning, she found the nearest chair and sank into it, clutching her head.
“Are you drunk?” Victor wondered, a bit softer this time.
This was the chance, the only one, hold the secret for an hour or a day, it didn’t matter, she was still lying to him, and she considered it, laying it all out, telling the truth. Then she saw the bottle of liquor in his hand, at hardly eight in the morning, this was nothing new, but, Faldecto’s story stuck in her mind and, in the end, this was her choice. There was no way around it really, Ichabod had cut Victor out, no matter what his father might say, the boy was likely to do as he pleased. Was it worth it then, to take the pressure off herself, to have the boys turn on each other?
“I’m fine,” she said, faking a smile as sincerely as she was able, “Just dizzy is all.”
“A touch of the flu then?” he surmised, “Or maybe sinus congestion? I’ve told you a thousand times, working with those plants, it’s not good for your health.”
“Truly,” she tried to laugh as convincingly as possible, it seemed to work.
“Well, I suppose it’s no foul then,” Victor backed away, heading for their room, “I’ll place an order, you feel better love.”
Gatchin paused at the entrance to the church, dumbfounded by a simplistic change, everything was shut out, calm and silent, all the screaming, the fire, the crackling and rumbling was cut out and seemingly, only the tranquil was allowed in. Shaking her head at this, churches tended to be unusually quiet to her experience, it had something to do with their construction, and perhaps this place was soundproofed. Soon enough later, she passed under a skylight her jaw dropped. She had looked to sky often enough in the past few minutes, just pondering as much as fascinated by the roiling red fog which completely overcast the heavens. Yet, looking through the windows inside, the sky was black and pierced as ever by starlight.
“You’re seeing that right?” she wondered, grabbing Bobby and pointing out the discrepancy, while the group were led to a great pair of double doors.
“We all saw it,” Vince snapped, “Step lively.”
“And who the fuck put you in charge?”
Aggravated, the nun standing behind her slammed her rifle hard against Gatchin’s skull. The Young woman’s eyes crossed for a second and she collapsed against Bobby, barely managing to remain on her feet as she clung to his coat. The nuns gave no words, but when Bobby began his protest, they all aimed their rifles at his head. Before anything could escalate, Vince ran back, holding up his hands pleadingly, begging them for forgiveness while the nun simply glared. When she finally relented, he turned back to the fallen girl.
“Rule of thumb,” he reached out, offering to help support her weight, “Don’t make things difficult for the person pointing a gun at you.”
“Good advice,” Bobby mentioned, grabbing his apprentice by the shoulders and setting her on her feet before bowing to the nun, “Apologies ma’am, we’ll go quietly.”
The nun huffed, gruffly and shoved them both forward, Vince still holding his hands in the air peaceably following orders while Lilly skipped alongside him.
“That was brave, very stupid but brave,” she chirped.
“Thanks,” he muttered, “Seriously though, just keep your head down here, nuns are fucking scary.”
“And you realize we can hear you?” one of their captors snapped, following them close.
“I know,” Vince responded sincerely, “You hear everything, that’s what so terrifying.”
The nun smirked in response and seemed to like that answer, far more gently than the others, she gestured they take themselves down the hall with the rest of their group.
“Were you flirting with her?” Lilly whispered, leaning in as they shuffled down the hall.
“I am dead fucking serious,” Vince hissed, “I was raised in a catholic boarding school, nuns are fucking scary.”
“I can still hear you,” she repeated.
Vince twitched as though he’d been slapped, and proceeded with the rest in silence, while Lilly continued to chuckle. After walking for several minutes, they reached their destination, the chapel, and once again they were shoved inside though, this time, the pack of armed nuns didn’t follow. Instead they remained outside and slammed a massive wooden door-jam into place to block off the entrance, leaving the group alone in a rather beautiful church. Though dimly lit by candles the details struck them from all around. It was lined with well polished ash wood and surrounded by massive ornate stained-glass windows depicting the miracles preformed by saints in aid to the people.
“How big is this place?” Vince wondered, curiously running his hand over one of the supporting marble pillars, “It’s like an abbey.”
“I’d say it’s more like a Christine,” Lilly observed, her eyes locked on a mural overhead which depicted a mass reaching with open hands towards a cornucopia as it emanated from the cross, “Definitely a Christine.”
“Is there an off button for her?” Gatchin demanded.
“Let me know if you find one-DON’T!” he shouted the last part, hearing the metallic snap of Gatchin’s glaives as she slid one into view.
“Tease,” she snickered, putting her weapon away.
As they were conversing and studying the room, Bobby walked back to test the entrance, but only strained against the cross bar.
“Locked,” he mentioned, “So we’re prisoners?”
“No,” Vita responded from the dark, emerging almost like a phantom, floating down the aisle with a small jewel encrusted, cross shaped relic clutched in her hands, “You’ll have to excuse my girls they’re a little bit blunt.”
“No worries,” Bobby shrugged somewhat nervously, “Um, question?”
“Uh, yes?” Vita mimicked, batting her eyes playfully.
“Why…what are we doing here?”
“Follow up,” Gatchin interjected, “How did they get their hands on those guns?”
“Does that really matter?” Vince scoffed.
“I’m curious alright, I mean I’ve gotta go to the tri-state just to buy a revolver and these bitches are carrying around assault rifles.”
“I just don’t think…”
“You know,” Lilly spoke aloud as she continued to stare at the mural, “If you kinda cross your eyes, it almost looks like they’re all holding hands, Oh that’s cute.”
They all stared at her for a moment, then at Vita when she failed to stifle a laugh.
“The girl has a point,” Bobby nodded, “It only matters that we don’t have bullet holes in us.”
“I don’t think that was the point she was making,” Vince muttered.
“I don’t think she was making a point at all,” Gatchin huffed, folding her arms.
“BUT!” he shouted cutting them all off, “Do you mind telling me…us why we were kidnapped.”
“In a moment,” Vita bowed her head, “We’re actually waiting for one more arrival,” her face took on a worried expression, “To tell the truth I expected him to be here by now, I do hope nothing happened…”
“Should we go looking?”
“Could you knock that off, Hey!” a muffled voice rang out from the hall, “Let go of the jacket alright, just let go! It’s not holding up very well.”
“Hmm,” Vita bit back on a grin, “I don’t think that will be necessary.”
The door jam was yanked to the side and Collin was thrown into the room.
“Hey, I said I was sorry,” he called out as the entrance was closed off once more, half sincere and half laughing, as he turned around to straighten his tattered clothes, “Damn,” he then noticed the crowd and waved, “Oh, hi, Vita, just the person I was looking for.”
“Collin?” the mother superior wondered quizzically.
“The fuck happened to you?” Gatchin sniffing the thick trail of smoke trailing off of his clothes.
“Yeah, sorry, fell asleep in a furnace,” he tried to joke and extending his arm in a show of friendship, “Collin Napier.”
While Gatchin sneered at him, Bobby came forward, and shook his hand.
“Bobby,” he smiled, “Bobby Colf, the girl with the sour expression, is my ward.”
“Don’t ever call me that again,” she snarled.
“Gatchin Alejandra,” Bobby finished and she flicked her glaives out threateningly.
“Um, Vincent St. Christopher,” he came forward and shook his hand, “Call me Vince.”
“Gotcha, and…” Collin began only for the last person to walk forward and stand nose to nose with him, staring intently into his eyes, “You got a problem?”
“One of your eyes is purple,” she mentioned.
“Uh-huh, she’s uh…kinda touched in the head isn’t she?”
“Yeah that’s Lilly,” Vince shrugged.
“Who says touched in the head anymore?” Gatchin scoffed.
Lilly continued to lean in, eventually pressing her ear to Collin’s brow and letting out a complacent moan.
“Okay,” he finally pushed her back, “Boundaries.”
“What the Hell are you doing back here?” Vita came forward and exclaimed.
“You’d prefer it if I were croaked over in the gutter?” Collin raise an eyebrow.
“I might be considering it…”
“Wait,” Bobby pulled back a little, “So this isn’t the person we were waiting for?”
“No,” Vita folded her arms, “We thought he had run away.”
“But, what with your Crippling concern for my well being,” he said, dripping with fake sympathy, “How could I STAY away?”
“Your jokes aren’t funny, and we’re actually trying to do something important here,” Vita snapped, then let out a sigh, “If you need a place to wait it out…”
“Red clouds,” he interrupted.
“Excuse me?” she tilted her head.
“Red clouds,” Collin sighed, “I just came in to talk to Jimmy.”
“AH,” she nodded, “To save your own neck then.”
“What…” he looked physically hurt from that remark.
“Begging your pardon,” Bobby inserted himself between the two, “Who is Jimmy?”
“A precog apparently,” Collin shrugged, trying to play it off but still obviously stricken, “We all thought he was just crazy.”
“That’s not the point,” Vita interrupted, “It…”
“Oh!” a voice broke into the conversation, “So the gang’s all here? Good.”
“Now, do you know anything about chess?” Omi wondered arranging the board.
“Well that’s good, because Chess, played in Hell, it’s actually a lot different.”
“And they play Chess in Hell?”
“Well it’s basically a game taught to the over privileged brats of the Infernal Aristocracy to teach them basic strategy.”
“And there’s an aristocracy in Hell?” Megan wondered.
“Yes,” Omi leered, “And What the fuck does that matter to you? Seriously, what the fuck does that have to do with anything, it’s just useless side information, it’ has nothing to do with the here and now, could you please fucking focus!”
“Okay, jeez!” Megan threw up her hands, “You’re the one who keeps bringing it up.”
“I only asked a question!” he shook his head, and started grabbing for pieces, “Ugh, now, I want you to think of these less as pieces, and more as a representative allegory for, um, the necessary elements of an army, right?” he presented the king from the box and placed it into the corner of the board, “It’s your key piece, without it, your army is in disarray, it’s your leader, it’s your goal, it’s everything.”
“It’s me?” Megan repeated, “You’re saying that this represents me?”
“Sure,” Omi shrugged, “Why not, anyway, that’s your head piece, of course you’ve got lieutenants, lesser controllers, basically just a barrier against your general.”
He placed the queen in front of the king.
“Then you’ve got your Priests,” he pulled out a bishop and flanked it to the left of the queen, “Necessary to rally and invigorate your troops, keep them fighting when they want to drop,” he pulled another bishop of the opposing color, “Spies,” he said placing it behind the queen, “Tricky little bastards, needed for information gathering and removing difficult obstacles.”
Megan looked at him quizzically, examining the pieces all wedged into a corner.
“Why are they arranged like this?” she wondered.
“Symbolism I guess,” Omi explained, taking out the last three pieces, “Representing an all or nothing situation, win or lose only,” he popped down the pieces onto the table and stepped back, “Anyway, that’s about the size of it.”
“And what are the last three?” Megan asked.
“They’re your fighters,” he shrugged, “They’re nothing, inconsequential, you just use them to weaken the enemy, but your key players are back here.”
“But why put them on the board if they don’t matter?”
“Because they’re cannon fodder, and every single good army needs good cannon fodder, so…”
“Is he cannon fodder?” Megan pointed to Rolz floating behind her, “And what if he’s not? How am I supposed to know…”
“Him?” Omi scoffed, then sighed and pointed to the rook, “Vanguard, also called a line buster, heavy attack, hard charge, Calvary, experienced knights, your more potent warriors, requiring finesse, and skirmishers,” he flicked the pawn down onto its side, “Basic warriors, weakest in the set, trust me, they don’t matter, you’ll be tossing them away like candy.”
“So why have them at all?”
“Every war needs cannon fodder,” he repeated
“And what does any of that have to do with me?” she demanded.
“This,” he finished setting up the board with an opposing team, “This is what you’re drawing from the box, these are your warriors, and this is the game.”
“Aaaannnd who the fuck are you?” Collin wondered of the floating woman as she beamed down upon them all.
The being sashayed towards them, her long dress flowing around her legs like a waterfall. She seemed to be made of moonlight and wind, her feet never touched the ground.
“Oh, I saw this movie once,” Lilly stepped forward, “Are you gonna blow one of these guys now?” she pointed to Bobby, “If so, I’d suggest him, he really seems like he needs it.”
“Um…What?” the woman cocked her head to the side, clucking her tongue.
“Hey,” she threw up her hands and turned away, “Just a suggestion, you put your mouth where you like.”
“Lilly!” Vince grabbed hold of her and dragged her back as she giggled, “Not the time.”
“Do I really need to repeat my question?” Collin muttered, massaging his temples.
“Well, no one really gives a shit so yeah,” Gatchin muttered, “Knock yourself out.”
Incensed, but well chastened, Collin grumbled into silence while shuffling about awkwardly.
“Lucy,” Vita supplied, “Is the reason we’re all here, she drew us together, though I believe we were waiting for another member...”
“Dead,” the apparition told them, “Crushed to death under falling debris,” she bowed, “My apologies, I’m afraid you may have to recall any search parties you’ve sent for him.”
“Noted,” Vita agreed, nodding her head sadly.
“I’m sorry…” Collin tried to reach out to her, “Was he a friend of yours?”
“Why,” Gatchin interrupted the two, “Why the fuck are we here? And it’d better be a damn good reason or we’re already gone.”
“To say it bluntly,” Lucy spoke, “You are my army, well, not necessarily mine…”
“Oh my God,” Collin muttered under his breath.
“Exactly, each and every one of you was chosen by God himself to…”
“Dude, really?” Vince complained.
“Could you please just keep your mouth shut,” Bobby folded his arms, aiming his eyes intently at the apparition the whole time.
“Know what, I’ll do ya one better,” Collin headed towards the exit, “I came here to talk to Jimmy anyway, once I’m done I’ll be outta your hair.”
He shoved his fist into the door, stabbing the crossbar with one of his scythes and lifting it up before flinging the door open as he stomped on through. There was the sound of somebody shouting as his footsteps receded down the hall only to be silenced by a loud thump.
“O-kay…” Gatchin raised an eyebrow.
“Dammit Collin…” Vita muttered.
“Seriously, I thought that door was locked,” Vince muttered.
“AHEM!!” Bobby shouted pointedly, all the while staring at their ghastly host, “You were saying?”
“Before I was so rudely interrupted” she muttered hatefully, then calmed herself, “Okay, that was a false start, let’s begin again,” she took a deep breath, “You have all been chosen by God to compete against the darkness in order to preserve the sanctity of the universe.”
“The universe?” Gatchin scoffed, “Sure you’re not pushing it a little?”
“Could one of you just give me two fucking seconds to finish talking?!” Lucy shrieked, “Look, you all have been tasked to fight on Heaven’s behalf against a motley crew of demons and monsters, succeed and all will be set right, lose and everybody goes to Hell, or stays in Hell as the case may be.”
“So….” Gatchin posed tentatively, “How?”
“There are seven of them and seven of you, your best bet would be to attack them before they are all fully summoned, one at a time, and kill them or force them to submit.”
“And…where will they be summoned?”
“The Hell would I know? Listen, you asshats have your job, do it, and everything’s peachy, fail and we’re all screwed, Get it? Got it? Who the fuck cares, I’m out.”
She held up her fingers in a peace sign before flipping them off and fading away.
“So…” Megan wondered, “Why can’t I just summon them all at once? I mean it seems like a pretty large hole in our defenses.”
“It’s not a huge delay, just an hour or so.”
“Because we made a concession,” Omi snapped, “One of many we made in order to have this war.”
“So you made a deal?”
“Yes I, we, all of us,” he complained, pulling off his hoodie, “We made a fucking deal, we’re demons it’s what we do.”
He tossed his clothes to the floor, stripping his pants off next.
“Um, why are you…”
“Something like this isn’t just done on a damn whim, there’s meetings, negotiations, strategy sessions.”
“Uh-huh,” Megan nodded, staring at Omi’s dangling red penis.
“So yeah, we make deals,” he stepped forward, “They get to cherry pick their troupes, we get to take the home field advantage, they get a lump sum, we get a chance to hide.”
“And why are you naked?”
“Because we need to commit,” he stated.
“Uh, What?!” Megan stepped away, allowing Rolz to float in between them.
“It’s…” Omi actually seemed scared, halting in his progress, “It’s a necessary action, to seal our contract.”
“Didn’t we do this…”
“Not entirely, we still need a bit of an…exchange,” he insisted, now backing away as Rolz pressed him.
“An exchange of what?”
“Fluid, a little biology to lock the deal,”
“And you really thought I’d be wanting to fuck you after the night I just had?” Megan snapped, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“A little blood then?” he wondered, looking at her pocked and blistered hands, “Just make a fist, you should be able to squeeze a little out…”
Megan did as she was bid, squeezing her hand and stressing her wounds but receiving nothing in return. With a frustrated sigh, she grabbed hold of Rolz blade arm and sliced her palm open while Omi bit through his own hand. The two shook and a red light flashed between them that traveled up her arm and bursting to full light within her chest where the energy flushed her cheeks and eventually left her in a gasping heap on the floor. Omi moved to help her but visibly flinched as Rolz continued to block his path.
“Easy, easy okay,” he threw up his arms, “It’s all part of the plan.”
In response, Rolz ran his blade arm against Omi’s throat, drawing blood.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a bit violent?”
Just then Megan coughed, slowly pulling herself up off of the floor.
“What the Hell was that?” she demanded, and looking around in confusion.
“That…” Omi shuddered, stepping away to check the wound on his neck, “Was me lucking out,” he looked down at the black blood staining his fingers, “How you feeling kid?”
“I’m…” she looked down at her hands and saw the puckered wound across her palm, “What?”
She touched the scar and almost shrieked when it peeled away under her fingertips. She was shaking, until Rolz reached out to hold her steady. With a single stroke of his bladed fingers the pocked skin crackled and peeled away, showing that there was no injury beneath. With shocking precision, and gentleness, he continued to shave off the excess to reveal it, her skin, whole and beautiful, completely unmarred beneath the wounds.
“All better?” Omi wondered, “Yeah, that’s the benefit of the deal, you look sweet and pretty for all time.”
“Really?” Megan wondered.
“Yeah, and eventually, you’ll loose that pooch too, your body will absorb the excess calories and heal as the deal continues to preserve and strengthen you, Cool right?”
“Cool,” she smiled, “So…what’s next?”
“Nothing much, chill for a bit,” Omi suggested, “We’ve got to wait a while for the next summon, so just relax.”
“Oh, okay, can I…Is there some way I can get some sleep?” she wondered, “I’m just…”
“Go,” Omi nodded, “Take a nap, I’ll get you when we’re ready for the next stage.”
She nodded and walked off, visibly shaken while Omi looked over at Rolz who was still maliciously staring down at him.
“The change will take a lot out of her at first, make sure you take care and keep her hidden.”
Looking back at him coldly, the demon floated over the floor to follow her out while Omi cringed at his mistake.
“Right, guess that went without saying,” Omi nodded, then looked down at his still dangling cock, “Okay, now to take care of this.”
|I am currently writing a book series called 'Reapr-Born' and most of my art is based off of that, mostly character sketches and comic book cover style layouts, I would like to appologize if some of the contrast or consistancy is not up to the general standard, I rarely get around to inking or coloring the pictures so sometimes the image can get lost in the canvas, but it' there, you'll just have to zoom in a little, for the record I own the copywrite to both the images and the story itself, so look, admire, hate I don't care, but just remember it belongs to me, if you wish to learn more about the characters and the world they inhabit I would suggest you buy my first book which is availible for purchase at Lulu.com, I expect to have the second volume out some time next year|