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Old July 18th, 2007, 01:05 AM
Girshwin Girshwin is offline
Join Date: July 15, 2007
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Bloody Tomorrow: A TAO (No, Not Heroscape) Fan Fiction

or, "I Wanted To Be Able To Make A Thread In This Forum Subsection, But Was Too Lazy To Actually Write Something New"

I recently wrote a TAO (Tactics Arena Online http://digisonline.com/tactics/play/) based Fan Fiction. And, almost nobody read it. :/ So, instead of actually writing something about Heroscape, which this forum is, you know, about, I'm reposting something completely unrelated.

Note: The following is rated PG-13 for graphic violence and hot sex.

(No, not that last one.)

Bloody Tomorrow

It started with rumors, of course. The Reich was dead, his son Gabriel was now the head of the empire, and the war was over. Sam didn’t want to believe it. The son was a weakling. A scholar. Sam didn’t want a ruler who would read books and chase after pretty girls. He wanted a ruler who would fight.
Sam was a soldier in the Reich’s army. He had been one all his life, just like his father, and just like his grandfather. He had no family. Sam was a knight; it was his calling, his duty, and his life.
He had invaded many kingdoms, seen many things. Fierce savages with spears that could skewer two men in one thrust. Mighty rock monsters that rose out of the ground to strike with granite fists. A god-warrior they called Omega.
Now, though, it seemed Sam would never fight again. Because the war was over and the Reich was weak.

Sara was tired. She had been working overtime all this week. “We need you to cover this, Sara. You’re the best we have.” She had nodded at Rick’s advice, and followed it. Sara knew that without her the small-town newspaper would fail. The other three journalists were lazy, and couldn’t be bothered to do anything original other than the local stuff. She made good money, and for that she was grateful. Still, Sara wanted more.
Her grandmother, three years ago when she was only beginning to be afflicted with the slow death that is Alzheimer’s, had told Sara that she could have it all. “You’re 21, attractive, damn smart, and you’ve got mettle. You can do anything you want, go anywhere you want.” That had been a happy time. The grandmother had taken care of Sara after Social Services dumped her on the doorstep, and Sara had grown up and succeeded at everything she tried. She had gone to Harvard, aiming for a law degree but switching to journalism her sophomore year. She switched because of Michael.
Michael had been wonderful. Caring and intelligent. So Sara had decided she wanted to marry. Michael said they could go back to Indiana, where he had also grown up, and work for the paper. They would be a team, and there were already openings. Michael would buy a farm on the outskirts of the town and they would start a new life. It had all sounded so romantic.
Sara and her fiancé had moved back to the town where they grew up, bought the house, and got the jobs for the paper. That was when Michael changed. She remembered the first time he yelled at her, telling her to make breakfast. “It’s nine! Get it done, girl, I’m hungry!” She had rolled her eyes, smiled, and made breakfast. The next day, he yelled again. A week after that, and he hit her. She had cried and visited her grandma- who gave her a hug, words of encouragement, and told her to break up the engagement. It was too late, though, because Michael had swept up the grocer’s daughter and left town. No doubt he became caring and intelligent again, for a while.
Sara had been devastated, but she had tried to move on. Her dreams of becoming a lawyer, changing the world, those were gone. She kept the job at the paper. The years passed, and she worked and she stayed. Grandma died.
Now, Sara wished she could go home and sleep on her comfy double bed that was only half used. It was already seven. She yawned, got up, and walked to Rick’s office.
“Rick? I think I’m done for today. I’ll come in early tomorrow.” Rick didn’t answer. Sara walked up to his desk and asked again: “Rick?”
“Oh, hey. Sure, go ahead.” He leaned over his computer, nodding absently.
“What are you doing?”
“I found this new game. Online. It’s really fun. Addicting…”

Sam was on patrol. The rumors were true; the Reich Gabriel had made peace. The conquests of the father were over. He was bringing the army back from foreign lands, and disbanding most of it. Sam’s company was at the northern border of the Reich’s empire, the last remnant of force in a country that had once bristled with arms.
Sam peered through the trees. He stood atop a small watchtower, alone. The forest stretched gloomily in front of him and around him for miles,inly broken by the occasional twist of smoke from a hut. It was a quiet night, but Sam still did his duty, as he had always done, and gazed through the darkness at nothing. He wondered what he would do. The grand decades of glory and slaughter were over. He spat at the thought: he would be a civilian.
Then the forest lit up. Great gouts of flame soared over the trees, magic burning wood. Sam gaped, but he was ready. He had seen it before. The enemy had always had mages, studiers of the arcane arts, and Sam did not fear them much. Their fire was not real, it didn’t kill. Sure, it burned and hurt like hell, but after the spell was cast the flames would die out. The mages were not the problem; the forest was.
He could hear wood cracking in the heat. Smoke billowed now, almost to the tower. He sounded his bugle, but the inferno would of course be a much bigger warning. Sam ran down the tower. Strange, he thought now. The magic fire shouldn’t be strong enough to spread.
Sam’s companions were shouting, pointing through the trees. Sam could see dark shapes edging through the brush, keeping away from their handiwork. Pyromancers. Sam grinned and drew his sword. They were easy meat, went down fast in a melee. Sam knew he could finish them.
He edged toward the outlined shapes, and knew that he had been wrong; there would never be peace. If you didn’t murder the bastards on their own lands they would come for you. He smelled the burning, tasted the ash, and licked his lips. Death; it was a beautiful thing. Sam saw a fellow soldier dart in front of him…
...And turn red. The man stumbled backward, a human torch. He looked back at Sam, the last vestiges of humanity bubbling away as his skin melted off his face. Sam felt terror. He had seen that happen before, watched the last seconds of another man’s life as he was destroyed. He knew now what this was. Dragonfire. Sam did something for the first time in his life; he ran.

She was home. And she was really tired. She needed to stop working so much, stop doing so much. She yawned.
She walked drowsily to the bathroom, dropping her purse on a chair. She looked in the mirror. It stared back. Sara Linford, twenty-four, blond, medium build and height. Some lines around the face, circles under the eyes. Still beautiful.
“Valedictorian, Sara,” she whispered to herself. It brought back memories. Growing up right here, Grandma’s house. Everything pretty much the same, nothing ever changes, not in this town. Only thing was that it was getting older. The young people left and didn’t come back. All of her old boyfriends, most of her friends. Gone.
She yawned again, walked to her bedroom. It’s only seven-thirty. You shouldn’t be going to bed. You should be out cruisin’ the town- I think that’s what they call it these days. Having fun, coming back in the early morning. Sara took off her shirt. A social life. That would be nice. You should call somebody. Megan, maybe Jane, haven’t seen either of them for a long while. Come home at five. When work is supposed to end.
Sara made up her mind. Bring some friends over tomorrow, have a good time. She lifted her arms, put on a nightshirt. She heard a noise.
Outside, something rustling. An odd sound. Not too far away. She looked out the windows. There was somebody on the road, somebody tall. It was already dark, she couldn’t make out his face. It had to be a he, the guy was really big. His arms were huge. A weightlifter, maybe. Sara blinked.
The guy was walking funny, loping along. He looked lost. He stopped, turned toward Sara. Grunted. Turned away. The window was open slightly, some cool air could slip through. Also, a bad smell. A stench, really. Ugly. Sara closed the window, looked out again. Nobody there, nobody at all. Something wet on the road.

A young man opened his eyes. He looked like he had been dozing, but he also seemed troubled. He had thought it was finished. It was closed, wasn’t it? He was the only one who had been there, and he had had a great time. Mostly. There had been some bad parts, but those were over now. Completely separate, right? Different reality. Unless it was coming back.
The young man shook his head. Nope. Groundless. He smiled. Just a game.

He was on fire. He ran almost two hundred meters before he figured it out, felt the heat on his back. Sam ducked and rolled, beating at his mail. He smelled his own flesh burning. He tried to scream, couldn’t, and gave a dry cough. He stumbled as he was engulfed. There were others running too, a few, but they paid no notice to Sam. Behind him, the forest consumed itself. Ahead…
A stream. He couldn’t see, was barely aware at all. He couldn’t feel it anymore. Distantly, he acknowledged his hair was on fire. He couldn’t run. Didn’t want to. Then he hit the water, only a few feet deep but enough. It hurt more now. A lot more. He tried to turn on his back, tried to breathe, but it was hard. He stopped flailing and his head came to lie on a rock, submerged. The current twisted him, and he stared at the sky. It was grey, no stars. Near the end, he felt himself lifted up through the dirty air…

Richard Abraham Williams III usually went to bed around midnight. That gave him about six hours of free time, after eating. He spent most of it online. He didn’t have a life, didn’t have a wife, and didn’t have a lot of friends either. He was almost thirty, had a short scruffy beard which he was immensely proud of, wore glasses, and was on the edge of fat. Richard had his job and his games.
He was, despite his appearance, sociable enough when he wanted to be. He had landed a job as editor, and kept it. He was decent at most everything he did. He was lazy. And, today, he had found Tactics Arena Online.
Rick stretched and stood up. He set his beer on the counter. He wanted a break, his eyes were hurting. He pushed up his glasses and walked to the front door. Some fresh air. The darkness was broken only by a few porch lights, and crickets were chirping. Rick stepped outside.
There was a slight breeze blowing toward him, part spring and part summer. Rick looked up. The stars were bright, in a town like this there was almost no light pollution. It was a perfect night. Rick inhaled, breathed out, inhaled again. He started walking.
The breeze carried the stench of rotten meat.

The smell of fresh-cut grass permeated the air, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Sara smiled; it was perfect for a picnic. The campus buildings rose up around her. She lay on a blanket and stared at the sky. Food was spread out beside her. She sat up.
“Hey, Grandma,” Sara asked, “do you want the raspberry or the strawberry?”
“You know I just love strawberry jam.” Grandma smiled back, her soothing voice washing over Sara.
“This is a nice place, Sara. Very nice.”
“Thank you.” Sara found the bread, and she picked up the jam.
“How are classes?”
“Great. And I met this guy…”
“Wonderful.” Grandma’s voice took on a harder edge. “Very wonderful, Sara. You made a bad choice. Very bad, Sara. Break up the engagement.”
“What?” Sara grimaced, confused and annoyed.
Grandma stared.
“Grandma?” Sara asked nervously.
Grandma’s lined face looked intently at nothing.
“Grandma?” But Grandma wasn’t there, and Sara was walking through a hallway. She saw…herself, lying on a blanket, in the grass outside the window…beside here now was Rick, and the other journalists. “Work’s waiting, Sara. Have fun.” They turned a corner, laughing.
Megan was at her right side. “Hey, Sara. You forgot about me, didn’t you. All of us. Oh, look, there’s your life…
…and Michael was embracing her. Kissing her on the lips. “I love you, hon.” And then his arms were longer, his face grotesque. His breath was bad, rotten. He stepped back, pushed her away. She looked at him. A tear, at the corner of her eye. She turned away.
Sara pulled the blankets tighter.

“Hello, sir.” A round face leaned over the cot, cheery jowls drooping under crooked teeth. “I’m glad to see you awake. It took the best cleric in the world to fix you.” The face winked, warts contorting in unnatural shapes. “Me, of course.”
Sam stared confusedly up at the unfamiliar face. It was ugly.
“My name is Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” Sam mumbled, the world slowly coming into focus. It still smelled of ash.
“Yes. I was named around the same time the new Reich was born, because my parents thought his name would bring good luck.” Gabriel set down his prayer book. “Ha. The old Reich now, more like. Did you know, soldier, that your Reich Gabriel is in hiding? This forest, or what’s left of it, isn’t part of your country anymore.”
Sam thought: an enemy.
“I’m a friend. You know, I used to fight in the Reich’s army too. I had my fair share of pillaging and plunder. But you know what, soldier? I was in a church, only a few miles from here, and there was cleric in my way. He was very old, and was providing sanctuary for some women and children who thought they could find refuge. The men were all dead, of course, and the women would be raped before they and what was left of their families were sold into slavery.” Gabriel unwound a bandage on Sam’s arm and peered at it. “I drew my sword, and was about to cut him down, when I saw a little boy. And do you know what, soldier? That little boy looked just like my little boy. Uncanny.” A fat hand yanked the off the bandage and reached for another.
“I didn’t kill the cleric, that day. I became one. I live here now, in this little hut. I help (or helped) the villages that used to be near here. Now, I will gladly serve you.”
His vision returned to him, Sam looked around and saw that he was indeed in meager surroundings; light from a tiny window and slightly open door revealed the makeshift bed he was lying on, various scattered potions, a pot, and books.
“And now- about you, soldier. I found you face-down in a stream; you were in mighty bad shape.” Hairy lips chuckled. “Very lucky, you had only just escaped the blaze; it was stopped by the very fire-break your side set up.”
Gabriel sighed. “You will find life very different from yesterday. I fear your Reich is in very bad shape. The oppressed, unfortunately, often become the oppressors, and most of the countries around you, even your allies, are against you now. Would it have happened if your old leader hadn’t died? Probably. War begets war, soldier…there will be a bloody tomorrow.”
Sam grimaced. He could still feel a faint pain where he had been burned. “That-” He coughed. “I fight for the Reich because the Reich is my home, cleric. Is that something you don’t understand?”
Gabriel smiled. “Soldier, anywhere there are sick, anywhere there are injured folks, that is my home.”
Sam grunted.
“What’s your name, soldier?”

The young man who had thought, shook his head, and dismissed those thoughts realized that he had been wrong. How did he know this? He knew because the last time it had happened, the time he had profited from it, it had left a mark on him. This mark was not for him, but for the maker’s convenience. It tracked the young man, and made him easy to find.
What the original makers did not realize, for in fact their equipment was rudimentary, was that the man had moved the mark. He had, in fact, downloaded it. It spread over something the creators knew nothing about; the In-ter-net. How did it spread? It spread because the mark was in fact knowledge, knowledge which was really just electrons and brainwaves. This knowledge had been given to the young man, and its pattern could be traced through space, even through time to some extent. Alas, the mark which the makers used to find the young man was not the pattern of the electrons in his head; it was a pattern known by millions. So when the makers tried to find the young man, a man who had stumbled through to them by accident, whose world had been discovered in a freak chance, they did not find him. They found the latest person to whom their mark had been imparted; Richard Williams, player of TAO.
Vito had been wrong but it didn’t matter for him; it mattered for Richard, and for any poor souls around him.

Gabriel pulled off one last bandage. “You are free now; you are in good enough shape to go wherever you wish. Your sword is gone, but you can make it back to what’s left of your side and try to make a difference.” The fat, ugly man smiled sadly. “Be on your way.”
Sam looked at the odd creature. “Thank you.” He sat up on his cot…and ducked as an arrow zipped through the window, burying itself in one of the ancient tomes by his side.
Gabriel hobbled to the door and shouted, “What in Omega’s name are you doing?”
Sam took a quick look through the window: three men.
“Kill the traitor, please.” A tall man voiced this order, directing a shorter, stocky soldier.
And the soldier blew Gabriel’s head off with a .45 Magnum revolver.
The three ran toward the house. Sam backed up against the wall, and lifted the empty pot over his head. The first man came through the door; Sam brought the iron pot down hard and the intruder dropped. Then the second man ducked down and grabbed Sam’s legs. He toppled, the pot smashing into rows of potions. The third one, the tall one, had the gun now. The second man pushed Sam away and the third pointed his weapon at Sam. “Stay down, please. We can use you, I think. A soldier of the Reich? Very nice.”
Sam looked at the barrel; he had seen the smoke and fire explode out of it to murder Gabriel. He stared blankly. “Get up.” He got up. The second, stocky man put a knife to his neck and motioned for him to stay still. “Matheus. What about Dape?” The tall man, Matheus, shook his head nonchalantly. “He was just a worthless punk.”
Matheus stepped over the corpse Sam had struck with the pot, and he stepped over Gabriel. He looked down and spat. “Fool thought he could play both sides.”

Rick stopped and let out a breath. He needed to lose some weight. And get a girl. Man, this is a nice night. He could be out here with someone. Maybe Linford. She was hot, if a little morose sometimes. He shouldn’t give her such a big workload. He was playing games while she was writing the next day’s headlines.
“I’m a loser,” Rick thought. Huh. But that new game was fun. There were so many different strategies and unit combinations. Gonna be an update soon too. Hope it isn’t that egg thing.
Back to Sara. Alright, Rick promised to himself, no more beer or Tao tonight. I’ll do her work for her and give her a call so she doesn’t have to go in early tomorrow. Half of the work that Sara does should be someone else’s anyway.
She’s got a sorry life too, maybe if I ask her out she’ll say yes. Screw boss-worker taboo.
He was walking confidently now. He thought: maybe I can balance Sara and Tactics Arena. They’re both fun.
There was a rustling in front of him.
Rick flinched. Stupid cat. Or maybe some other animal, carrying dead prey. Because man, whatever it was it stank. And…holy ****! Never seen a 6-foot cat befo-
Rick ran.
Mountain lion? How the hell would one of those get here.
(It’s chasing me. It’s fast. It’s definitely not a person.)
Ssss…(It’s hissing.) Rick pounded back down the street. (It’s got claws!” It’s like…no, that’s impossible.)
A grunt. Ssss…(It is. It’s a berserker!) Sss…(It’s gaining.)
“Sara’s house!” Rick whimpered to himself. He ran up the lawn. The creature followed. “Sara!” He gasped. “Open the damn door!” It was on the steps now…

The men had taken Sam to some sort of compound. There was no one else present, but there was a lot of strange equipment and the complex was ringed with barrier wards.
The tall man, Matheus, sat Sam down on a stump. His hands were tied. “Hello.” Matheus and the other man grinned. “I’m going to tell you what’s going on here.”
“This place is secret. Belonged to the Reich, actually. We found it yesterday- everyone was dead. See that half-eaten body over there?” Sam looked, and grimaced. “A berserker got them. They are rare forest predators- one must have got in somehow, and has been scavenging for who knows how long. The barriers are unfocused, so we just walked in. You won’t believe what your “Empire” was up to…”
Matheus stroked the Magnum in his hand. “These guys set up some sort of teleporter system. Crazy, huh? And they found something. Another world. They’ve been going for about four years, in the middle of nowhere. But, apparently, the thing they used for teleportation broke, but recently fixed it. We gathered that much from their logs. They also have a tracking system that directs the teleporter. (We shut it off for the moment.) They had it honed on a person, who apparently got through to this world years ago. Vito Sze. The system wasn’t set up properly, but now we have it so the portal will form right by the target.”
“Do you know why they wanted to get back to the other world? They found this- it’s rusty, but deadly.” Matheus paused, and held out the gun. “Ask your bud Gabe. He healed my former colleague Dape earlier, but then he saved you… It’s okay. We can use you. Because, see, this berserker and who knows what else is running around on the other world. We’re gonna go there, and use you as bait.”
Sam cocked his head. “No, Matheus, you won’t.”
Matheus stared at Sam, puzzled.
Sam looked up. “Berserkers generally have mates. Turn around.”
The stocky man coughed up red. There was a claw sticking through his chest.

Sara woke. What was that banging? She jumped out of bed and ran to the living room. Rick and somebody else? Those bodybuilder arms.
A scream. “Open the door!” Sara shook her head, confused. Something buried itself in the wood. That smell again. She opened the door.
Rick crashed in. The thing outside wrenched its arm out of the door. Rick slammed it shut.
“Rick? What is going on?”
“It’s a creature. A berserker! I’m not crazy, it’s a monster!”
Monster. What?
The door exploded inward. Ssss. A rankness filled the room.
“Oh my god.”

Matheus fired, again and again. The beast didn’t stop. It slashed at Matheus’ arm, and came for Sam. He hurled himself off the stump and threw up his hands. A claw swiped down. Sam forced his hands upward, and the claw cut his bonds neatly in two. Another blast of fire and smoke. The berserker roared, and turned toward the noise. Sam leapt to his feet. Matheus was running now, and the beast was following. Matheus hit a lever, and a bright white circle blazed a few feet away. The man ran toward it…and a claw struck him in the back, ploughed upward, and erupted out of his neck.

Rick pushed Sara, and stumbled through the nearest entrance. The bathroom. Sara tripped. The thing was over her. No! She was a journalist. This kind of thing didn’t happen to journalists. I’m in a freakin’ small town in Indiana.
Sara kicked upward, ferociously. The beast reared, and its blow came down wildly beside her. She flailed at it. There was a white light in the background. (Wish I could go back to nothing in this town changing.)

The revolver was on the ground. Sam sprinted toward it. He grabbed it. The berserker, now free of its second prey, came for him. The white circle, I can escape through the circle. He slid by the creature and into the circle…A rush of light. A room. A scream. There was a monster. And there was a woman.
… Sam, in that rush, thought. Death isn’t beautiful. She is. I spit at civilians. But they are the ones I’m supposed to protect. Maybe Gabriel was right. War begets war. My conquests had no meaning. Here is something I can give my life for…
He was through. He looked at the revolver. How had the man used it?
Pull the trigger.
Nothing happened. Something else, he could hear something else hissing and roaring through the portal. He ran forward.

The beast standing above Sara stumbled. There was a guy, real powerful looking, who had jumped on its back and was madly attacking it. It turned. Sara saw the white light again.
Rick huddled in the bathroom.
Sam pulled Sara to her feet. The beast lunged. Sam ran back…he fell. Toward the portal. There was something coming through it…leaping…
He went under, dragging Sara.

Two beasts struck each other in the air. Claws ripped through bone. Sss. Then silence. Rick opened the door. I am going crazy. Gotta turn my life around.

Sam collapsed on the ground. Home. He had saved her.
Sara opened her eyes, and saw a new world waiting.

The End. (Or, The Beginning.)
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