In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter One Hundred
By AL BRUNO III
Saturday, December 4th 1996
The thing moved quickly, leaping like a spider, and catching itself with limbs that were boneless and thick. Its skin was translucent, revealing a tangle of unknowable organs and a cluster of eyes that slid along the underside of its flesh like bubbles of air moving through water. This was called a biologic locus and it was the closest the creature that played at being Piers Sauno could ever come to inhabiting this world.
At least for now.
“Well,” Jason Magwier said as he watched it trundle their way, “that’s new.”
Zeth looked up from reloading his pistol, he fired off three shots with trained precision.
The biologic locus shifted out of the way, flowing like water. Zeth started to fire again but then it was on him, two of its nine limbs locking onto his wrists. He fired reflexively into the air before pain forced him to lose his grip on his weapon. It secreted an acid that set his clothes and flesh smoldering.
“Zeth!” Magwier stripped out of his shirt and wrapped it around one of his hands. He dragged himself over to where his best friend was fighting for his life and began to punch at the biologic locus with his covered fist.
The thing’s flesh was tough as an elephant's hide and its secretions set the cloth of the shirt smoking but Magwier got its attention. Another limb wrapped around his throat and its touch burned.
“Bastard!” the biologic locus’ voice was an enraged gurgle. It shook Magwier like a rag-doll back and forth back and forth, faster and faster. Zeth was screaming as the secretions began to eat at his flesh.
Then they were free. Both men fell face first into the snow. The biologic locus was squealing.
Jason Magwier looked up at the sound of his name, it was Isobel. “Where...” he flinched, it hurt to speak.
“Look!” Zeth pointed.
Both men recognized the Dread Lord instantly. Chayot had put its right arm through the biologic locus. The thing that played at being Piers Sauno was shivering with its death throws, limbs twitching and curling impotently. The smoky tendrils slipping from Chayot’s fingertips tore at the body, throwing strips of sticky flesh in all directions.
Isobel was at Magwier’s side, looking at his wounds and grimacing, “It isn’t Warren.”
“I know,” Magwier said.
“Son of a bitch,” Zeth whispered, “she did it.”
Isobel ignored him, “I need to know where Galen is.”
“I think he’s near,” Magwier tried to move and then collapsed, “I can’t remember.”
“Then we will find him,” the Dread Lord Chayot said plainly. He dropped the biologic locus. His arm was almost completely burned away, “Come Isobel.”
But her attention was still on Magwier, “What about you?”
“Go now,” Magwier smiled thinly, “before it’s too... oh wait it is. Damn.” Then he fainted away.
A familiar voice said, “Isobel. What do you think of the new me?”
Everyone’s attention turned to the two figures approaching them, a man and a woman. The woman had one arm wrapped around Galen’s throat, in the other she held an Uzi.
Isobel almost didn’t recognize her. The Monarchs had made Cheryl McGlade beautiful, the frown lines were gone from the corners of her mouth and they had thinned her out in all the right places. She was grinning, her teeth were perfect.
Ms. McGlade opened fire, spraying bullets at Isobel.
The Dread Lord Chayot shoved Isobel aside. Bullets tore him to shreds, making a ruin of it. Chayot fell, its head shattered like old pottery, its body leaking pale smoke into the air. Chayot tried to rise but the body it wore was useless.
“One less puppet,” Ms. McGlade said, “now we can really talk.”
The sight of Warren’s mutilated body was almost enough to make Isobel want to start crying again but there were no tears left. There was nothing left for her but Galen, and the creature her best friend had become was choking the life out of him.
Zeth grabbed for his gun but his wounded wrists had robbed him of his speed. Ms. McGlade shot it out of his hand. The look on Zeth’s face was almost comical. He dove for cover before she could fire again.
“Stand up,” Ms. McGlade ordered.
Her knees were watery, she couldn’t catch her breath but Isobel did as she was told. “Cheryl please...”
“Let him go.”
Ms. McGlade’s smile became a sneer, “I said come closer. There are no martyrs here. Or heroes for that matter.”
With that she waited. The only sound was the sound of Galen trying to breathe. Isobel came closer, not stopping until they were face to face.
“You’re wondering why he hasn’t changed aren’t you?”
Isobel didn’t answer.
“He can’t,” Ms. McGlade explained, “the chains. Silver alloy. Just like the old stories. There are such things I could tell you if you only had the time.”
“Please,” Isobel hated herself for begging, but did she have any other choice? “please let us go. You’re not like this.”
“I died for you. I died so you could live out your little love story. Was it worth it?” Ms. McGlade’s voice was conversational. “Was he worth it?”
“I’m sorry,” Isobel said.
There was another spray of gunfire as Ms. McGlade drove Zeth back into cover. Then she asked again, “Do you love him?”
“Yes,” Isobel said, “of course.”
And Ms. McGlade let Galen go. As he gasped for air and moved away she yanked at the chains holding his wrists behind his back breaking them like they were paper ornaments. She glared at Isobel, “Even though we were friends I always thought you were pathetic. Too busy trying to find a man to ever to find yourself.”
Isobel wanted to run to Galen, to hold him in what very may be their last moments but he was inching away from them both, his eyes full of desperation.
“Pay attention to me!” Ms. McGlade at Isobel but she kept the Uzi trained on Galen. “And think for once. I want to understand why you deserve what’s coming to you.”
Isobel asked, “What do you want from us?”
“Why did he come back?” Ms. McGlade asked, “Why did he come back to your apartment that night?”
“He saved my life.”
“That’s what happened but why is the question. Why did he come back?”
“He came back for me,” Isobel said, and she couldn’t help but smile.
Ms. McGlade sighed, “For you? What makes you think you’re so special? If it was really the true love you’ve been dreaming about then why did he leave in the first place?”
“What does it matter?” Isobel suddenly, impossibly felt like slapping the half-familiar figure before her.
“He’s been running for years,” Ms. McGlade said, “I’ve read his file. He’s been running for years. Do you think you’re the first friend he’s made along the way? The first time he managed to score an anonymous fuck?”
“He came back for you Isobel. He came back so he could cover his tracks.”
The words stung, they stung because it all made a terrible sense. “Galen?” Isobel’s mouth was dry, she felt like she was going to be sick.
He didn’t answer, he wouldn’t even look at her.
“Now close your eyes,” Ms. McGlade said, “I want you to close your eyes.”
Isobel couldn’t close her eyes, not when she was crying, not when she was still staring at Galen urging him to do something, to say something.
“Very well then,” Ms. McGlade raised the Uzi.
A spasm of pain caught Isobel by surprise, she clutched at her stomach. She hadn’t been shot yet but it certainly felt like it. She coughed and a ribbon of darkness slipped from her mouth.
Ms. McGlade raised an eyebrow, “What have we here?”
The last of Damiea curled like a serpent and moved like a flash of lightning. It struck Ms. McGlade in the center of the chest driving her back. The twisting foulness pried and insinuated itself into the half-mechanical body. Ms. McGlade’s twitched, she tried to scream, her eyes exploded outwards shattering like glass. The thing in the center of the mass of ceramic bones, fake skin and copper wire, the thing that played at being Cheryl McGlade convulsed and died as the very fluids that sustained it became squirming poison.
With that done the last of the dark god Damiea turned back to the safe haven it had created for itself. It arced through the air. Isobel started to run, screaming for Galen to save her one last time.
But he was gone.
End of Book Five