Published by Quintin Fortune at Smashwords
Copyright 2015 Quintin Fortune
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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Hello Heroes, the Quintessential Quintin Fortune here, and fall is just around the corner. Time for autumn colors, pumpkin spice everything, and people complaining about it being too cold when it’s only 68 degrees out (grow an epidermis!). But fall also bring something else: new stories from The City under the Crescent Moon, New Tao! We have three new micro stories for you. First is a battle between the Professional Heroes and a mysterious ancient machination. Second, Our Hero Deadguy finds out more about himself than he cares to know. Finally, we start up a new series with Lady Grey on a mission. Enjoy these little stories, let your friends know, and remember…Always Be the Hero.
The summer sun reached into the classroom as a boy no older than nine stood in front of the class. He wore all black with fingerless fighting gloves. He held a wrinkled sheet of paper. “At this again,” he muttered to himself. He then cleared his throat. “What I did on my summer vacation by D…D…” He felt strange. His brain wasn’t working. It forgot his name. How could it forget his name?
The class was starting to laugh at him. He looked over at Mrs. Bitterman. No, that wasn’t her real name, just the one the kids all called her, mostly due to her perma-scowl and angry disposition. He heard someone get up and turned back to see the little girl in the front row standing before him. Her short, blazing red hair almost hid her stern face.
“Deadguy,” she yelled in a very adult voice. “Wake up.” Then she slapped him.
Deadguy blinked a few times, then noticed he was laying in a pile of rubble from the wall he was knocked through. Jill Nemo stood over him, her blazing red hair hanging down over her face.
“Hey Boss,” he greeted, still a little woozy. “I had the strangest dream, and you were there, and…” He trailed off, looking around at the maddening scene that was playing out behind her. There was a giant stone block with four arms and a blank expression swinging wildly as a man with spiky black hair was fighting it. The man held two crimson katanas while four other blades of various types hung on his sides. “…and that, that wasn’t anywhere in it.”
“It’s called Unmei no hakobi-te,” she said as Our Hero scrambled to stand up. “It’s trying to destroy the city.”
“Right,” he said, ready for a fight. “Why?”
“I’m not paying you to ask questions,” she stressed.
“Go,” Jill commanded, and he charged back into the fray.
“Hey Valkster,” he called out. The spiky haired swordsman blocked one of Unmei no hakobi-te arms with both katanas. “Just two? Why not three?”
Valkadaidan shoved the arm away. “Because three would involve holding one in my teeth, and that is not practical.”
Deadguy ducked a granite fist. “Hold it! Where’s Masamune?” He started looking around and whistling. “Here weapon weapon weapon. I’ve got a nice stone edifice for you to smash.”
He felt a stone fist slam into his back, sending him flying across the street. He collided into a large metal foot. He looked up to see a cute bi-racial girl with flowing blond locks sitting inside a cobbled together machine. It looked almost the same size as Unmei no hakobi-te. She waved enthusiastically down at him.
“Kiri, where did you get…is that part of my car? I thought it was totaled?”
“One Hero’s trash,” she remarked, pushing a few buttons. The mech wobbled a bit as it tried to take a step. “Whoa! Too much thrust. Back back back.” She banged on a few more buttons, and the mech stabilized. “Sorry, haven’t had a chance to field test it yet.”
Deadguy rolled out of the way and stood up. “Well, we don’t have a field, but now’s a good time for a test.”
“Hai,” she exclaimed. “Omega Missiles! Are! GO!” Several tiny missiles fired from the mech’s shoulder. Unmei no hakobi-te swatted them away with one arm as it continued to fight Valkadaidan with one of the others. The missiles flew off in every direction and exploded. Small black holes popped up, then quickly collapsed within themselves.
“Kiri, what was that,” Jill questioned, concerned.
“Omega Missiles,” the Techie replied cheerfully, her voice echoing through the speaker on the front of the mech. “Weaponized mini black holes.”
“I don’t think that’s feasible,” their boss stated. “or legal.”
“That’s the point of a field test,” Kiri said.
Their argument was cut short as Valk was sent flying into the window of an apartment above a coffee shop. “Found Masamune,” Deadguy declared, zipping past Jill and charging at Unmei no hakobi-te. The black bat’s green hieroglyphics started to glow. He swung wide, catching one of the arms in the attack. The fist flew a few blocks away. The stone being swung with both of its left arms. Our Hero ducked the top arm and blocked the bottom.
There was a mighty roar as Valkadaidan leapt out of the apartment, all six blades drawn. Both Heroes started fighting off the three remaining arms. Deadguy smacked one away, but didn’t notice the one fist behind him. At the last moment, Kiri’s mech grabbed the arm.
“No,” she fussed. “Sneak attacks are not allowed.”
Unmei no hakobi-te and Kiri’s mech started trading blows. The machine held its own even with the stone entity’s extra arm. One of the mech’s punches knocked it back. It steadied itself, then started to spin the upper half. “I can do that too,” Kiri announced. She slapped a few switches, and her mech started spinning.
Deadguy and Valkadaidan stood back, watching the debacle. “She’s going to get sick,” DG said. Valk just nodded. The two combatants spun faster and faster, each one barely hitting the other before bouncing away. Almost by chance, Kiri’s mech managed to slam her fist several times onto Unmei no hakobi-te’s head. Each hit broke away bits of stone until a small idol that looked just like it was knocked out. The larger version crumbled as the idol flew off and crashed onto Jill’s car, crushing the roof.
“Kiri,” Jill yelled. “I just got that replaced.”
The mech slowed its spinning, then stopped. The cockpit sprang open as the Techie jumped out and promptly threw up in the closest trash can.
“Don’t think she’s listening,” Our Hero said, walking over to hold back Kiri’s hair.
Valkadaidan fished out the idol from Jill’s car. “I recognize this idol,” he said. “What is it doing here?”
“What do you mean ‘what is it doing here’,” Jill asked.
“This is one of the Ten Sacred Idols of the Enshi Clan,” he explained.
“Then what the hell is it doing tearing up my city,” DG asked as he and Kiri walked up. Kiri appeared to have a mouthful of mints.
“That’s the same question I have,” Valkadaidan answered. He held up the idol. “We need to go to the Enshi Clan Temple in Nagano.”
“Which means we’re going to Japan,” Our Hero exclaimed, thrusting his fist into the air.
“Woo foo,” Kiri added.
Our Hero stood in line at the coffee shop that he tended to go to more than he would admit. Between him and the cute barista stood a jogger on his headphones, a girl trying desperately to hang on to the hipster look, a little old lady, and a stay-at-home dad trying to wrangle two kids.
He checked the time on his smartphone for the umpteenth time when someone came in and stood behind him. “Seems slower than normal,” a dark yet soothing voice remarked.
“Already don’t like were this is going,” Deadguy commented to himself. “Look, Bucko. The kids up there are moving as fast as they can,” he said, throwing the statement behind him.
“I didn’t mean the line, Corpse.”
He spun around to come face-to-face with a man that looked to be somewhere between 25 and 45. He was dressed as if he had just walked out of a gothic wizard fanfiction story. Short black hair, a soulpatch, black leather everything and several occult pieces of jewelry. The piece that caught his eye was the small disk he wore as a necklace.
It was an upside-down star, but the top left point was open. Three 3s were in it, with the middle 3 backwards. In the middle of the star was an icy blue eye. The entire design was contained in three circles of onyx, ruby, and bone.
The man said something, but Our Hero didn’t hear it. “Excuse me,” he said, shaking off the haze.
“I said, you are drawn to it,” the man repeated.
“I’m sorry, but who the hell are you?”
The man chuckled. It sounded unnatural. “My name is Azrael. I am a Necromancer.”
“Yeah, you and about ten thousand other people in this city.” Deadguy turned back to the line in front of him. The stay-at-home dad had finished is order and now it was the little old lady’s turn. “So much for a quick cup,” he huffed.
“You are not after coffee,” Azrael said. “You just wish to flirt with the barista.”
“Shut up,” he shot back. “I have enough problems with him narrating every thought in my head, don’t you start in on it.”
“How much do you know about yourself,” the Necromancer asked. “Your past? Your abilities?”
“Ahhh. Ah ha. That’s why you’re here,” Deadguy exclaimed. “It’s the whole ‘delve into Our Hero’s past but not really get any answers but use it as a plot devise to set up future events’ ploy.” He turned back to the line. “Just so you know, those story lines never work.”
Azrael snapped his fingers, and the world lost all sense of color. The coffee shop was covered in something that could only be described as the color of cold. Hazy images of people seemed to wander aimlessly in this world. The sounds of the outside world seemed muddled, as if under water.
“I would ask if you just slipped something into my coffee, but we’re still in line,” DG commented, looking around.
“This is The Veil,” Azrael explained. “It is the world between the Living and the Dead.”
“I thought that was Florida.”
The Necromancer smirked at the joke. “No, but I do have a summer home there.”
“Leave the witty remarks to the professionals, Spooky.” One of the hazy people walked through Deadguy. “And this trip into the Hereafter is because…?”
“The Veil,” Azrael corrected. “It is a place only those that can move between Life and Death with ease can access.”
Our Hero turned back to the line. The little old lady appeared in mid-thought. “Why aren’t they moving?”
“Time moves slowly here, almost to a standstill,” Azrael explained. “The Lost honestly have no need for it.”
“The Lost,” DG questioned. “Hold on. There’s a third party in all this mumbo-jumbo?”
“I would not call them a third party, more like patients in a waiting room.”
“So, when I finally die…bring a book?”
Azrael thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers again. The colors and sounds of life returned. “That is the most curious part in all this,” he said. “You cannot die. Or, at least, something is preventing you from dying.”
“Could you not look at me like that,” Deadguy said, leaning away. “It’s a little creepy in the ‘body found in the basement three months later’ way.”
“Oh no, you misunderstand,” Azrael defended.
“Really? Because you said you were a necromancer, which means you like to control the dead.”
“A common misconception.”
The little old lady was finally finished and the hipster started on her impossible-to-follow order.
“Who are you? Really,” Deadguy asked, starting to become annoyed. “You come in with your ‘back from the graveyard’ vibe and snaptrip to the Not-Purgatory Waiting Room of the Dead. Who are you? What do you want?”
“Those are questions you have been asking yourself for quite a long time,” Azrael said. “Centuries, even.”
“I wouldn’t say centuries,” DG replied. “I kind of have this whole amnesia thing going on…”
“How convenient,” the necromancer remarked.
“Only for the guy at the keyboard,” he muttered.
“All the more reason you need my help.”
Deadguy rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Look, Raziel or Azizi or whoever you are, I don’t need your help with anything. There’s a reason I don’t remember my past and frankly, I don’t care to know my past. All I care about is the future.”
“You mean like the immediate future,” Azrael asked, pointing behind Our Hero. The jogger had grabbed a bottle water and moved to reveal the cute barista waving him forward.
A few exaggerated steps, and Deadguy was at the counter. “Hey you,” she greeted warmly.
“Hello Beautiful,” he responded, giving his most charming smile. “Sorry. Some weird guy was trying to give me the business.”
“What guy,” she asked, looking behind him. He spun around to see Azrael had disappeared.
“Great,” he grumbled. “A necromancer and a ninja.”
She entered the cathedral. The only lights came from the various candle that dotted the floor and hung from the wrought iron chandeliers. It was cold, even for an ancient stone church. She pulled her gray, wide-brim hat down farther to hide her eyes as she walked into the confessional booth.
Two homeless. One drug addict. Five old ladies. One…she paused. It was a young man, no older than Twenty-three. He looked ragged. Worn. He hadn’t slept in days. A hospital bracelet hung from his wrist as he prayed. One new dad, she noted as she continued on to the booth.
She quietly pulled her rifle from out of her long gray coat as the panel between the two tiny spaces slid open.
“Yes, my child,” the wheezy voice of the priest asked. “You have something to confess?”
“Tell me, Father,” she asked, her voice raspy. “If one hunts and kills monsters, is one still a sinner?”
There was a pause. “What kind of monsters,” he questioned.
“Monsters like you.” She placed the barrel against the wooden divider and pulled the trigger. The priest was knocked out of the booth, but evaporated into dust before he could hit the ground. She kicked the door open and sprung out to see the shocked looks on the parishioner’s faces. She scanned the church, ready for someone to make a move.
There was a faint hiss coming from one of the old ladies. Then another hiss from the drug addict. Soon, the late night congregation sounded like a room full of snakes. One of the homeless leapt at her, his face a twisted farce of a human’s. His eyes were blood red and his mouth a row of teeth like a shark. With one shot, she blasted him out of the air.
The new-born father screamed. All eyes turned to him.
“Idiot,” she hissed. The creatures started after him as she tried to outrun them. One of the old ladies latched onto her back, trying to dig her claws into her shoulder. Three layers of rune-reinforced Kevlar hindered any penetration. She slammed her elbow into the creature’s stomach, then quickly turned and shot her.
The lady disintegrated into dust as the woman fought her way to the screaming man. She blasted away the other homeless that was about to land on the new-born father, placing herself between him and the remaining nightmarish creatures.
“Don’t kill me,” the new dad screamed, trying to shield himself.
“Shut up and run,” she commanded. The man scrambled to his feet as she pushed him towards the door at the back of the main hall. He stumbled into the smaller room, causing her to almost kick him as she ran in after. She slammed the door shut and found something to barricade it with.
“Who are you,” he asked.
She paused. Should she tell him? Would it put him at ease? “Lady Gray,” she said finally. “And if you want to survive this night, you will shut up.”
The man nodded. She couldn’t tell if he was more afraid of her or of the creatures screeching on the other side. She didn’t care as long as that fear kept him out of her way. The creatures were beating at the door. Gray tried to figure out a way to get the new-born father out safely. How could a simple clean-up mission-
“That’s weird,” the man said, breaking her from her thoughts. She looked over to see a satin tapestry with gold embroidery. It had several full, half, and quarter circles in rows. “What is it?”
She quickly took a picture of it with her phone. “Nothing you need to worry about,” she answered curtly. “Out the window. Now”
“But it’s locked,” he complained. One shot unlocked the small window near the top of the tapestry. He clambered out just as the door splintered open. She fired two shots, both which grazed the shoulders of two different creatures. They were not meant to hit them, just cause a distraction.
Both bullets lodged into the door frame, then exploded. The mini-explosions caught the drug addict off-guard and seared half his face off. A hellish scream was his response. Two of the contorted versions of the old ladies barreled through him and continued after Lady Gray.
Her rifle clicked, indicating it was empty. The butt of the gun would have to do. She slammed in into the jaw of the closest creature. An audible crack echoed softly in the room. Kicking the creature into the other, she quickly climbed out of the window. The church bells struck Twelve as she led the new-born dad out of the back alley. The sweat made the cool night feel slightly colder.
“Is it…are they going to come after us,” he asked, visibly shaken.
“No,” she answered coldly. “They won’t risk exposing themselves. You’re safe. Now leave and forget this happened.”
The man thanked her, then ran off. She took note of the medical bracelet. 9/30/89. He must be a resident of The Veil, the bracelet his only token to staying in this world. Sighing deeply, she pushed a few buttons on her phone. No one noticed when she disappeared from the street.