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7/10/2008 15:23:27   


The Comment Thread is located here.

Also, check out the sequel to Disease, Plague

I am almost certain I shall split Disease in half, so Plague will be the sequel to the sequel. Don't worry; few spoilers are given about Disease.

I am now officially calling it the Epidemic Series/Trilogy. Epidemic won by a long shot in the old thread about the name of the series, with the almost certain second book taking the name Infection.

NOTE: I will, under most circumstances, have both part one and part two in the same post. This may not always be true, however. But generally, you can expect a whole episode per post.


First Post

General Introduction to the Thread


Episode One, Part One
The Beginning

Episode One, Part Two

Episode Two, Part One
Monroe's Survivors

Episode Two, Part Two
Goodby, Monroe

Episode Three, Part One

Episode Three, Part Two
Revelations, Round One

Episode Four, Part One.
Dessert Travel

*Reserved for Episode Four, Part Two*

< Message edited by mastin2 -- 7/10/2008 16:42:03 >
Post #: 1
7/10/2008 15:24:46   

Episode 1

“The Beginning”

Terror spreading rapidly though the once beautiful land, an infection meant to cure—killing nearly all who it reaches—and it is my fault. I am the source of this terrible disease, which has sprouted through the land. I am Brian, the starter of it all...

I keep asking myself, “How did this happen? Why did it have to be me to doom us all?” And I constantly think about it, even today…I…was only 16. I was perfectly normal, living a simple life, learning at my school, just beginning to drive, following directions from everyone, just having a good time! But my bad habits eventually got the best of me. Using my blue mechanical pencil, which I had used for years, I wounded myself badly on my left thumb from viciously stabbing it. I almost can’t believe how I drove it almost as deep as the bone, but then again, this was not the first time I had done such. I opened a wound which had closed the day before without even feeling a trace of pain, and as a result, I infected myself with a virus which had no trace. I didn’t even feel a stabbing, numbing, stinging, or tickling feeling! I will wonder for the rest of my life how come I did it, and why I could not feel it. It was careless of me, and the fact that I could have stopped it at any time makes it that much worse.

I will never know for sure what caused me to get the virus…only that it entered through that wound caused by my pencil. Thinking nothing of it, I continued my average day. Hour after hour, I continued thinking nothing of it, even though it had turned black with a tint of green, something I had never seen before. Yet strangely, I still showed no signs of pain. I kept on going, breezing through my English class with mastery—as I had listened through a boring lecture in which I barely kept my eyes open—and mastering my math with great skill. In my Tae Kwon Doe class, I dominated all others with punishing kicks, seeing as I was the second highest rank and I could even feel my opponents’ moves. One would think that the punches I threw would reveal the wound, but that was sparring day, so I was wearing gloves. After all of that, I got on a computer. Just an average computer, on an average day. The bands that made up the chair allowed me to just sink in, and after a hard day of work, this comforted me. I smelled almost nothing, tasted nothing.

I could hear the roar of a dozen plus computers, but my ears were tuned well enough to them so that I could ignore them. My slightly-sweaty clothing bothered me not; if anything, the touch of the bands against my back soothed me. I went online, as I usually did, and finished my business there quickly, seeing as I typed at well over 80 words per minute using the keyboard. Yet, even typing, clicking, and all of the movement that you do on a computer, I still did not notice. My fingers moved and you’d think that after staring at them, I’d see something. All I saw was the black keyboard and the white text making up every letter. I am quite disturbed today that there was no feeling of the keys on my fingers from the disease spreading, but I hadn’t noticed at the time. So many things were missed that I realized later. Despite how, to others, this may seem like symptoms, it was perfectly normal for me. That was my life from back then. Simplicity at its purest. Okay, maybe not that simple, but still, it was simple to anyone who looked at the details I have revealed.

But then, everything changed, as, coming in a usual fit of rage, my mother barged into the computer lab I had taken residence in. I always knew that she would know to find me there; it was normal by now. So I always had taken my computer at the back of the room, just to make sure that the risk of her interfering in my activities was virtually zero. While I had hardly noticed my wound, my mother saw it immediately and panicked, screaming at the top of her lungs. Her voice pierced straight through my ears with that terrible shriek, and I doubt a single person two rooms away could not hear her panic. Even today, I still think I hear a slight ringing in my ears from that moment. I think my very hands might have vibrated and my vision dulled, but that could have also been the work of the virus. The following events were pure chaos, as I had barely enough time to grab my things before I was shoved into the car. I had literally been dragged into the car—by the collar of my coat—seated in the front seat away from any others. The drive took half as long as normal with my mother driving as fast as she was, so it did not take long for us to barge into our destination.

Taken to the hospital, I was then imprisoned, as they had not seen this thing before. My mother had just barged in and multiple times I had almost tripped at her rush. The smell of the hospital was somehow unnerving, making my nose shift a bit. The sound of people reading and turning their pages as they wait was all that dominated; they had no reason to be in such a rush. Now, by hospital standards, someone with a broken leg might have to wait, but for this, I guess they considered it severe enough to bring me in immediately. I was rushed past the hallway, forced into a relatively large, empty room in the back. Who knew how far it had spread? It may have been the largest biohazard in hundreds of years or been lethal, for all they knew.

I could have literally done anything in my few hours that the signs had shown, and the sheer speed it spread at was a complete shock. That was their concern, since they just wanted to protect others from this virus. They were just doing what they thought right. The room was boring at best; no smell, no sound. I could feel the metal walls of the chamber, though their ice-cold touch was barely noticeable. Calm as ever, I waited, and waited, managing to overhear something that worried me. My prison was nothing but a small metal room, so what else did I have to do except wait for any kind of news? The spread of the disease had slowed, though not enough to be a comfort. While I had been oblivious to the pain before, the burning that was then pulsing through my veins was quite the burden.

I am certain I did not hear everything and I could barely see what was happening, but I rather clearly heard the doctor’s next statement. “We might be able to try an experimental cure that should help him. It…hasn’t been tested before, but with it, all affected by his condition should be safe. You know the inventor of this cure for being an old friend of yours, and he is quite the genius. Not only could it cure his condition and all who he has spread it to, but it also could help those all over the world. For the moment, we only have a gas form to pump into the room, but eventually, we could develop a more portable version. We just need your permission to test the gas version so…” The look on his face was that of worry; I was quite the unusual patient. The sound of the ventilation in the room began to dominate and I was unsure how much more I would be able to steal from their conversation. They were tuning me out. Ventilation had not been there before; there was supposed to be silence. I was able to see through the thick glass—barely—but they then put blinds up. However, there was nothing I could do. The box of my prison had no escape, the metal door sealed from the outside.

I need not have heard anymore to realize that he had been cut off, but the conversation had me panicked. Though what could I do? Any action would be considered more reason to do it, not less. I am uncertain, but I am relatively sure that the walls were soundproof on their end, so screaming and kicking, they still would do nothing. “Do it!” Came from my mother, which would be the last I would hear from her. I had no time to protest—as I at least wanted to know who this person who was ‘an old acquaintance of yours’—but my mother had control of my medical life, and with no time to waste—because the disease was already bad—the decision was final. Now all I could do was pray. Pray that this would work. For if it didn’t, I felt a fate worse than death would befall me.

I knew immediately that something was not right…the ventilation had begun to change, and those chambers are built to keep people from locking out air. The change I had feared, though I was powerless as I heard the hiss entering the room. They released some type of gas into the room, which had a foul odor. The putrid stench reeked bad enough to cause my nose to loose all its sense, but the smell meant that the cure would soon affect me. The inhalation had likely started; holding my breath would have been too late and would have bought me only two minutes at the very most. The doctor had not been lying, but I wondered at the intentions of the original creator; would a person really be able to develop this for the good of all?

Once I inhaled it, I felt my body being ripped apart, feeling something which I thought not possible…Extreme pain, though still manageable enough to not make me yell. This could not have been what the doctors had wanted, as the fact that I was on the floor cringing at the areas of worst pain showed that this was not the desired outcome. My sense of smell was gone. My ears were wracked with pain as I wanted to tear them out of their sockets. Any sense of touch I had left was burning, freezing, or being ripped away in a shot of continuous pain. My ears began to ring, then were faded out as the low hum took over. After that, they seemed to stop functioning at all. I watched my hands lose their skin, leaving nothing but blood and scraps of flesh, and it was spreading through my body, tearing everything off down to the bone. My hands—what was left of them—were outstretched on the floor, my head pointed down, and I closed my eyes in pain. Something that was not tears fell from my eyes, and I coughed up a large pool of blood. To make it worse, the pain was beginning to be unbearable, and I thought I might loose what little control I had left over my body. The cold hit first, raising the skin and creating goose bumps. Then the pain of burning. After that, the pain would stop being heat or cold. And then, nothing would be felt at all from that limb; absolute numbness.

Because of my stubbornness, I refused to scream, since I had sworn never to show signs of pain, no matter how bad they were. I knew that, despite my best efforts, I would not last any longer. I was changing, though I knew not how, and a bad taste was forming in my mouth…a non-human feeling. That sensation—evil, tainted, disgusting, undesirable, and distasteful—would be the only non-painful feeling throughout the ordeal. The ‘cure’ kept on spreading…my arms were soon gone, and my ears already were muted, as I could hear very little. I could, however, manage—once I finally opened my eyes briefly—though only just, to see my mom’s eyes wide open. Had I been able to hear her through the glass screen, I’m sure I would have heard intense screaming. The taste grew worse, and then my tongue went numb as well. The cure had gone through my whole body, and now was trying to get back out. Through my bloody legs, I felt gas clearly escaping that had already purged my body, and it had clearly been altered by the transition. The green gas had been completely invisible before, yet now was spreading that ghostly color like wildfire through the room. The vapor was spreading to completely engulf the room, that green color still in my memory today.

And then, something I had feared without even knowing it…While most of my body healed instantly—leaving little traces of anything—a gap in the wall showed itself. Some rather ironic timing, one would think. I was shocked for a moment, so it took me a while to come to my senses. I first stared at my tan hands, then at the rest of my arms which I had outstretched to examine better. The feeling returned, painless. The smell had lessened, but luckily my nose was still not at a hundred percent. My vision had blurred, but now fully returned and my hearing became more sensitive than when this started, revealing the panic around me. I turned my hands around just to make sure, then I stole a glare at my legs. My clothing, my body, everything, back to normal. Except I was different. Though from there, my attention shifted to the gas, slowly dispersing and multiplying through what had become a breach too large to contain.

The gas had escaped and spread, causing a drop of temperature which made my skin crawl. Now I was feeling the cold again. The disease was escaping; it became more toxic than ever. My virus had caused it to mutate, and was now causing damage to everyone the ‘cure’ got near to! I watched in terror. The glass was meaningless, as I could hear practically the whole small hospital shouting. Still locked in my cell meaninglessly, I would just have to wait. And watch. And listen to the terror around me. From reports of terrorized doctors, now dying as well, I learned that it was killing all of the people who were not sick, and even some that were! Luckily, many—all who had contacted me—were surviving, with the exception of my parents. It quite amazes me how rapid the communication in this chaos was, but the panic and fear would matter no longer, as many died within a few minutes and the gas could not be contained. A total backfire which I was responsible for.

The new infection spread rapidly. Before anyone could react, my whole town was being ripped apart. Then it was the whole county. Soon, all of the state of Washington had been engulfed, and it kept on spreading. From experience—though I didn't know it at the time—the new ‘cure’, which we now call the Sarciller, killed everyone over the age of 30 and anyone who was not sick with some sort of disease, plus was strong. I lost almost everyone I knew, and saved only a few. Some of my friends, and my little sister, Julie—who was only a young 14 years of age—were amongst some of the lucky ones. Or maybe the cursed ones, as we would have to live with this regret forever. How could I live knowing that I had condemned most of who I had known to death? Tragically, this change was much worse than any expectations. My thoughts of just how bad it was were just a fraction of the true damage done.

In our search, we discovered that all people, no matter how remotely, had a connection with Nature. The Sarciller changed that…We lost our ability to heal ourselves, we lost our ability to eat and drink much food and water; we now could not savior grand tastes of warm, luxurious food nor quell our thirst with the brilliant swelling of water in out throats. At least, not the way we had before. We lost out ability to observe beautiful scenery, nor hear birds chirping heavenly, because any plant or animal near us often would die. A very few exceptions may or may not exist to this rule, but still most of the survivors are cursed by this. We had severed the link to everything making us human, so what exactly were we? There is no way to answer, but I had at least hoped this would be contained in the United States. However, an unnatural force drove this thing even further than imagined, and I would later find out just how bad this mess had become. Soon, the whole world had been engulfed. But we had hope—something I have learned to be more valuable than any sword, shield, spell, or ability.

The Sarciller somehow changed us, giving various powers to every one of us…And we would need them. It turned out that not everyone over 30 was completely killed. I had thought that maybe we would just have to know that everyone had died, but truth is more powerful than my imagination. Those over 30 who, by a miracle alone, survived transformed into monsters not even recognizable as human! We call these Darmichrons. They are pure demons, and I know of no soul who is capable of keeping their will at all times. Their urge to kill—to feed on surviving creatures, including humans—overpowers their logic, and only a few I have met are intelligent enough to speak. I created monsters that were destined to feed off of those who couldn’t master their powers. That probably cut the surviving population in half. Darmichrons cannot be saved from their path; it is a permanent change. So those people died as well, leaving the beasts. In the very, very few cases where the original conscience has emerged, they ask to be killed while still human. That is the extent of this damage; damage I caused.

This brings us to today, where we search for more survivors and try to use our powers to exterminate these demons, but above all else, we do it to give hope to our continued survival!

“What, Julie?”
“You look uneasy.”
“How can I not…Almost everyone I know is dead and it’s my fault. Anyway, any luck locating anything?”
“Nothing yet, brother. You know I’m still adjusting to my abilities…We all are.”
Brian runs his right hand through his 6-inch light-brown hair, always happy to feel the static-like cling of it. His sense of touch has been amplified since before, so he will often feel the delicate features of everything around him, also determining temperature. His hand is currently on a wheel, feeling the sweaty, cold, rough steer that was customized to another’s grip.

The smell is bothersome; even through the shield, Brian can smell the putrid stench of his doing seeping in through the cracks in it. The smell clogs up his nose a little, causing the pressure the build up and cause slight irritation. Such irritation twitches his nose; he simply cannot stand that smell. The air—even through all protection—is foul; the coldness surrounding him has several times—including right now—caused his skin to rise up. He can hear the whistling of the wind desperate to tear through all, the power contained within greatly amplified. Again, he briefly looks at the reflection of his hair, a reminder of the past.

He sadly knows his hair is only that short because of the virus, but a little craftsmanship and he can keep it that short at all times. At 6 feet, he is a whole head taller than Julie—though really not that tall and still growing—often reminding her of it by messing up her shoulder-length dark blond hair, which seems to give slight hints of green in it. When he does this, Julie will angrily stare at him with her unusually colored green eyes with a great frown on her face, as that always makes her head itch unbearably. She, too, has enhanced senses, so the rubbing against her scalp creates some friction which her distaste for is strong.

As they travel on in search of the next town—Monroe—he can’t help but observe for the first time that they haven’t changed clothes since the original incident—Julie is still wearing her favorite old purple T-shirt and faded blue jeans, and he still has on an equally worn pair of gray sweatpants. He keeps his school jacket on—coincidentally matching his closed feelings by being pure black—with the one exception of the symbol of his school—the eagle—on the front, and the letters ‘LEWIS’ printed on the back. The reason—amongst others, since who knows his true intentions—is because it is hooded, by no coincidence allowing him to hide his face more easily and giving his head a nice warm feeling.

When sleeping, this feeling of warmth will allow him through the unusually cold nights, keeping his head from freezing. Julie had asked him once if he was trying to hide his eyes—now full of red, green, and black swirls—but he has never answered that. When one does catch a glimpse of his eyes, a pattern seems to be forming in the fact that the black is heaviest just outside the iris, the green is heaviest next to the iris, and the red is hanging out on the outside. Though for the moment, they just dance brilliantly in his eyes, almost swirling in a hypnotic pattern.

The road they travel on is deserted, but eventually, they finally find what they are looking for. They find themselves at a town—though appearing completely abandoned—which would normally cause the best of visionaries to scream in terror. The old lake that was once one of the greatest places in the city to visit is murky, brown, and full of junk. Brian remembers the fresh, cool breeze created by the artificial lake, wanting to feel the wind bristling through his hair one more time. The air back then was so clean; it was full of the loveliest smells. The wind rushing over his skin would cool him after being bombarded by the heat of the sun, and he would enjoy it all. But now, he tries to avoid thinking what that same place is like now; it probably would blow wind neither warm nor cool down to torture him. It would rip into his skin, tearing him apart. His lungs might even gasp for air, the conditions clogging up his throat from their harshness.

If they weren’t isolated, the stench of the city, death, decay, ruins, and the Sarciller would dominate, though luckily the only smells nearby are that of particles leaking past their protection, week-old sweat, and old junk. Though they have no worry for much smell—almost no matter how bad—who knows what else could lurk out there? It is a mess, to say the least. Furthering the feeling of a ghost town is the park that they often went to; it is now completely destroyed, with nothing but scrap metal left behind. The sandy beach is black, the playground nothing but spare metal. Brian had called this place a second home, but what is left is not exactly what he remembered. The very sky seems to be filled with an oozy, green-brown murk, blanketing the cursed city with more trouble. He would not be surprised if any rain coming down would be acid, and the area around him suggests signs that he knows all too well. Darmichrons, time, chaos, destruction, and possible acid rain had come, leaving a leveled city left to search. The buildings visible at the time are all ruins at best, though mostly nothing but rubble. Torn apart cars lay everywhere as well, adding to the sense that things are not what they should be.

“Do you sense that?” Julie coldly asks, with a slight tint of excitement in her voice. Coincidentally, at the same time, Brian’s body temperature drops more than a few degrees, causing hair on his skin to rise up. The chill in his spine does not spell foe; if not foe, there is only one explanation. Soon enough, his ears might also produce a ringing sound and maybe he might even spot this ‘blip’ on his sixth-sense radar affecting his back. His face is slightly sweaty; he nearly bites his tongue from excitement. He can almost taste the feeling of another.

“Slightly...It's a Survivor! I knew that someone from Monroe must have survived and grown strong enough to fight those Darmichrons! It was where this all started, so surely there must be at least a dozen left. We traveled this far with no signs, but I doubt anyone would be foolish enough to go the way we came from,” Brian enthusiastically whispers back, as he notices his breath getting a little heavy. This excitement is like none he has felt before, causing his heart to race at a large speed in anticipation. But he knows all too well not to let his guard down.

As they ride down over countless bumps with frighteningly rapid speed in their car—which Brian is barely controlling—they head toward their old school. It is not visible in the distance that they face, but since it is where Brian had come from, it is where most survivors likely would hide. To Brian’s dismay, the car stops and smoke bellows from the engine. With great relief, Julie says, “It's a good thing it stopped! With your driving, we might have come all this way just to be killed in a crash!” The two open their doors and step out of the car, taking great care to close their doors quietly. A sound may alert survivors, of course, but is far more likely to attract unwanted attention. Though Brian fears that scent alone may cause this attention to be attracted anyway. This setting is just a place that makes Brian uneasy, as who knows what may be lurking behind that wall. It could be anything, and mostly would be the one thing that Brian does not have enough experience in killing. The very air turns against Brian; the foul scent known all too well to him. This area reeks of the fate of the city, and the few corpses they find show just how violent the Sarciller was.

“Oh, shut up! I'm not THAT bad!” Brian, clearly annoyed, responds with a slight tint of rage in his voice. However, he is quite careful in making his response rather quiet, since the longer they maintain stealth, the longer it will be before an unwanted encounter. Sensing that they are close, less than 1,000 feet from their old school, they go past the ‘Mc.Shell’, which was the favorite gas station and fast food restaurant for all in their area, but appears to have run out of food, plus the gas looks long destroyed. They stop immediately afterwards, and Brian has a small smile clearly showing. Julie’s look is slightly grimmer, as she knows as well as he does what odds they may face. Whatever she is thinking, however, is interrupted by Brian’s ‘cheerful’ response.

“Ah!” Brian happily exclaims, “Some good Darmichrons to test our abilities on!” as a swarm of them suddenly appear from all directions. Some from the hills above that once lead to their real home, some from ruins of buildings, and some emerging from the lake; they appear everywhere. It is impossible for Julie to count them all, but she can sense them better than anyone else, so she knows just how many they face. As the Darmichrons approach, Julie remembers how they had discovered their powers…

Part Two:

Pure chaos engulfed Brian as he ran from the hospital, sense of fear great. “I have doomed us all.” The hospital to him seemed like his deathbed, but with determination, he knew he could make it out. After all, once the doors were opened to allow him out, he felt an increase in speed and his senses seemed more acute, so he learned to block out the sounds of the screaming patients and doctors. After running through the small hospital, easily escaping through the narrow passageways and running past panicked doctors without taking note of the powerful breeze roaring across his skin, Brian ran to find Julie, who was at the family’s best car—a large rusty old Red and White Suburban—which had been used by the family for nearly 10 years. As he rushed outside, he heard terrible cries in the distance, but ignored them and ran straight to the car. The cries were everywhere, hinting to him that this was far from a local event, but his only remaining family took all his priority. A tear was almost shed for the souls he had left behind, but since his sister could be in large trouble, what could he do? His feet guided him well, as in only ten large leaps, he had already made it to the back of his car. Though the car was locked, he knew that the back door of the left side has a defect preventing a total lockout, so he had no trouble placing his finger on the trigger to open it, then pulling the handle with surprising speed and strength to open the door fully. This allowed it to swing back, and since the door was open, he could instantly locate Julie.

“Julie, are you alright?” Brian had asked in a panicked voice, but as Julie lay on the middle section of the floor, crying out in agony and rolling around in the cramped space, it was clear she was not. Her hands were clutched on her stomach, and her eyes closed, showing just how painful she must have been feeling. The red carpet that adorned the inside of the car had accumulated the little junk of his family for all the time the car had existed, so she could also be—from even non-enhanced senses—feeling little crumbs and pieces of things that smell worse than the Sarciller. Touching his bloody hands gently—of which his left had been turned black and green—to her, he was desperate. But it only seemed to increase her pain greatly, as she barely muttered quietly, and with great lag, “so…painful!” He almost turned away at the sight of this and he could tell that his sister was trying to look at him, yet failed every time.

After seeing this, Brian felt awful. How could he not? Seeing his younger sister continuing to get worse and worse, as now her arms had been completely torn apart, he cried harder than he ever had before. Her agony was a reflection of his own; her very senses, he knew, must have been completely ripped to shreds. Next, he could see her body violently spasm as he imagined the gas was trying to escape, though unlike with him, it could not. Her eyes suddenly went blank with a stare showing signs of death, but miraculously, a few seconds later—as Brian looked at the figure that once was Julie—she seemed changed, healed, and completely lacking energy. She then muttered weakly, “so…weak!” as she collapsed onto the ground from the open door. Brian caught her in his arms as he laid her on the ground, knowing she was unconscious from a large change. Whatever had happened had perfectly mimicked his own experience, allowing him to further feel sympathy and relief that she was alive.

“At least she’s safe,” Brian barely managed to say in a deep tone. Though he himself was feeling weak, he continued guarding her. It was the least he could do for her after he had caused what must have been a large epidemic at the least. When she regained consciousness, all she saw at first was a blurred image which she could guess to be Brian. When she regained her entire sight, she also spotted what remained of the town. It appeared to not even have a ghost in it, as all the buildings were gone—or at least missing two walls and roofs—and most cars destroyed, or at least tops ripped off; only they remained. A thick air clogged her senses; this feeling was that of something evil at its purest. She was more confused about this than any memory she can muster, but knows that Brian—weak as ever from guarding her, but still up anyway—might be able to give an answer. The question to her was whether she should ask him, since the emotional trauma may be too great.

“What…happened?” she confusedly questioned Brian as she put her knee on the ground and stood up slowly.
“I don’t know, but whatever happened, we seem…different than before,” Brian managed to muster, in a slightly despaired voice. He had no idea what to do, since his old life was clearly gone forever. When Julie stood up, he followed suit, also taking note of things overlooked before. But one thought troubled him deeply, as he remembered: “There were screams before, yet now I hear only silence. There must have been a building or two in tact, yet now the hospital is the only building left standing. What did I do to cause such damage?” He kept such thoughts to himself, as the two slowly head towards the hospital to try and find any equipment salvageable.

After they reached the door, however, a beast suddenly appeared, leaping from a building hundreds of feet away, and it said delightfully, “Mmm…fresh meat!” Brian and Julie had not had the time yet to even open the door, as Brian’s hand had lain on the cold handle just waiting to open the shattered glass door. The thing—just about a typical Darmichron, with only a few exceptions—was simply monstrous, being 8 foot 6 inches tall. Though Darmichrons can vary from 6-9 feet, this is the most common height. It had glowing evil red eyes—something they all feature—which almost paralyzed Julie when she looked directly at them, and even Brian shook his whole body in fear as he saw those eyes. His spine had become dead cold, and his hairs had risen up from the sheer shock of seeing such a monster. It had small teeth for a Darmichron, being only the size of one or two fingers, where most are the size of small fists. It made up for it with claws close to the length of a sword, where the claws of most are only longer than daggers. And to make things even worse, this beast just reeked with the smell of the Sarciller! Though unlike a common Darmichron’s strong scent, this one’s scent seemed slightly different and was much weaker. But even a much weaker scent was still enough to make Brian’s sensitive nose clog up.

“WHAT?” Brian, surprised and outraged, screamed as he stared with a sudden hatred at this beast, before he then desperately asked to Julie, “Can you run?” Julie was slightly shocked by this sudden question, but every instinct in her body said that running would be a good idea, and with her seemingly increased body strength, running may have been her best strength.
“I think so!”
“Well, then…RUN!” Brian loudly replied as they instantly began shooting forward at incredible speeds, hoping they could escape. Objects blurred around them, as they must have been going at least twenty or thirty miles an hour, heading in any direction away from the beast. Both could notice their long strides and high jumps, so Julie was quite pleased with her increased abilities. After all, she knew they were both running at top speed and that she never had been capable of keeping up with her brother before. “I didn’t know I could go this fast!” Julie proudly exclaimed as she extended her arm out in a feeling of victory. Brian is quite pleased at his sister’s enthusiasm, since seeing her large smile sparked a feeling of warmth in him when the entire world seemed like it was frozen.

“I don’t think either of us could have gone this fast before…it must be one of the changes in us,” Brian quickly assumed, returning Julie’s smile with his own large grin. Running—unlike for Julie—went against his instincts, but protecting his sister was the most important thing to him at the moment. The two were enjoying a rather friendly chat while running, but no more conversation would take place, as the same beast appeared in front of them. Brian muttered a few curses at himself for letting his guard down, disappointed that he had let this thing by. The Darmichron had leapt from an unknown location, and shortly after appearing, laughed in a battle-toned voice, “Too slow!” It reached out its hand, bringing it down in a powerful slash at Brian, who narrowly dodged most of it. His rapid ducking certainly saved his life, but his good hand—the right one—got torn to shreds, causing severe bleeding. To make the feeling of this being’s superiority worse, the powerful blow also destroyed a steel door behind him, giving them the hint that Darmichrons could easily slash through any material. Whatever Brian could do, it would have to test his body’s limit, as he had no idea how to beat this thing. However, his severe bleeding would create a problem unless he found a way to stop it. Or maybe—as an unspoken voice half-demanded—use it.

At this time, Brian felt a sudden powerful urge…He aimed his bloody right hand directly at the beast with the intention of aiming at the throat, and concentrated. At first, nothing happened, allowing the Darmichron to prepare for another blow, but then, his hand glowed brightly with a red glow surrounded by a colorful rainbow-like aura—fully healing the destroyed hand—and shooting an arrow completely on target, hitting the thing in the throat instantly. However, the arrow bounced harmlessly off, since the Darmichron’s dark brown skin is nearly as hard as steel. “What did I just do? It doesn’t matter, though, because if I can’t find a weapon more effective than an arrow, I’m still toast.” Brian let himself be briefly off-guard at the wonder of what he had unleashed, but the Darmichron would allow for no rest at all.

“Ha! You have learned of your abilities, I see! But that won’t be good enough!” the thing mockingly shouted as Brian rose his guard yet again. But as Brian quickly dodged again to the right—this time from those massive teeth—the beast cried loudly in pain. Julie, with relief, observed, “His teeth have shattered! And look at that…he bit something…it’s silver! They must be weak to it!” The assumption may have been a little preemptive, but nonetheless, it may be an advantage. The object which he had bitten was one of three bars nearby, yet the one bitten would barely be distinguishable from the other two. “So we’re facing werewolves of sorts, eh?” Brian with a big grin smiled. The suspense that he had been feeling with the lightning-speed combat was large enough that he knew not his own limits, so an object twice his size proved no challenge to lift. “Well, then, eat this!” he gruntingly said, as he pulled out the largest silver bar—complete with a razor-sharp edge—and powerfully stabbed it through the thing’s heart. “Silver obviously works at least here; I’ll be sure to note that.” Brian let go of the bar, confident the beast was dead, and turned his head to face Julie. However, the fight had yet to be won, and the beast removed the bar and flung it to the side. Julie watched in complete horror as she rushed trying to reach her brother and warn him, only to be too late.

“Ha! It’ll take more than that to stop me!” the beast confidently replied, as he—with the same speed he must have used to catch up with Brian and Julie—stabbed Brian in the stomach with a powerful jab, leaving nothing but a massive hole. As the Darmichron removed his fingers from Brian’s stomach—the damage reaching a good portion up into his chest—Brian took a good look at Julie and murmured “I…failed.” Blood dripped from his mouth and he collapsed, still staring at Julie who was rushing over to him, knowing that he was gone. Simply put, he knew that—even if he had some sort of super-regeneration ability—that it simply would not save him.

“Brian!” Julie worriedly exclaimed, as she ran over to him rapidly. As he blacked out from his wound—which was clearly mortal—the beast happily shouted, “Without him, you’re powerless!” Then Julie’s instincts came in. She had kneeled down to her brother’s side to watch his eyes close on her, and she had painfully let his head slowly touch the ground to rest. But now, she sprang back onto her feet and glared at the beast with more hatred than she thought that her gentle spirit could ever muster. Her brother was alive—just barely—but would become second course for this thing if she failed to protect him. “We’ll see about that!” Julie angrily yelled, as she raised her hands so they reached up to the sky. A few seconds later, vines quickly shot forth from the ground, completely immobilizing the thing as they wrapped around it.

To add to this attack, the vines also pierced through the top of the skin, causing pain to the creature that most likely had inflicted so much on others. Unfortunately, there was no permanent damage. But this simply would not do for Julie if her brother were to not make it. She—despite her normally gentle nature—had been pushed beyond her limit, so it would require some sort of extra attack. Julie pointed her hands at the beast with all her fingers equally spread apart, which quickly caused ten seeds to shoot into it, many slowly sprouting slowly to resemble trees, killing it. The pain—Julie could tell—would be the worst possible way to die, and watching it would make her enjoy it all the more. However, Julie had no time to keep such thoughts in her head and quickly returned to her normal self—exhausted and confused at what she had done—turning around to face what was left of her brother.

Rushing towards his side, Julie examined his wounds and realized just how bad they were. As the beast cried in agony from the slow pain of certain death, Julie cried. Her brother was rapidly dying and she didn’t know what to do. This was not something she had been prepared for; none of it was. She simply was not meant to be in this situation, and the fact that she had to face losing her brother forever made it that much worse. Her tears ran all the way until they reached her cheeks, where they then dripped onto Brian’s seemingly lifeless body. She was powerless, until instinct once again took over, causing her put her hand over the wound. She had laid her hand completely over the worst area of the wound—her right hand pressing down hard against Brian’s stomach—and reinforced it by putting her left hand on top of that one ninety degrees counter-clockwise.

Applying heavier force, a bright blue glow was created, mostly hidden inside the wound. At an unnaturally rapid rate, the glow caused the wound to suddenly heal. It took a few seconds, but afterwards, there wasn’t even a trace that Brian had been harmed. Now it was time to return the favor from earlier. Julie had expended all her energy, but she not only managed to guard Brian, but also to carry him back to the hospital where she knew she may find things to treat any residual damage.

As Brian awoke, Julie sadly asked with some hesitation “What are we?”
“I don’t know. We obviously are not human as we know humans to be, so something must be different. And I bet it is the Sarciller. The question is…what do we do with this gift? But the least we can do is to search for survivors. This car right here has the keys still in it.” In those few words, Brian had managed to get on his knee, stand up, and finally point towards a car nearby similar to the type which he is used to driving. “Hop in,” he gestured as he moved towards the drivers’ door and opened it.
“Oh, no! You’re not going to…”
“Yes, I am…Get in! We’re going to Monroe!”

That was how they quickly discovered their initial powers, and by some unknown force, learned they used just a fraction of their true power; Julie, instead of loosing her power with nature, had it greatly amplified, allowing her to rapidly heal most wounds and to control plants somewhat.

However, she can’t help but feel that this is just her known power. With exploration, she may be able to do much more, but how she knows not. Brian’s blood is mysteriously magical, allowing him to create whatever he desires. The form varies, but usually is an object or blast, commonly colored red or surrounded by a rainbow-like aura. His power never seems to stop increasing, but like his sister, he can’t put a finger on his full power. But he knows that he has untapped energy and if taxed enough, he may unleash it.

As Julie stops day-dreamingly thinking about back then, she has a slightly nervous look on her face, yet try as she might, she cannot hide it. “Do you even know what your limits are? By the fact that there are over 100 here, I doubt we can do this alone, especially since my offensive abilities are limited!” Julie worryingly inquires as she takes a defensive stance, at which Brian simply responds “No, I do not, but let's hope it’s...high enough!” he exclaims with some hesitance. The Darmichrons now surround them and are nearly within striking distance. Both Julie and Brian have their hearts racing with the thought of combat and Brian prepares his own defensive stance. He eyes a particular Darmichron—apparently a large ‘leader’ amongst them—as he simultaneously takes his trusted pencil, stabs it viciously into his left hand’s palm, lets it bleed badly, and presses both of his hands as hard as he can against the ground, causing the ground to glow with an eerie rainbow color. There is some hesitation; the Darmichrons seem ready to strike. But suddenly, the ground begins to violently tremor, causing Julie’s whole body—not to mention every Darmichrons’ as well—to vibrate rapidly. A slight tickly feeling spreads to every part of her body, causing her to be unable to fight at that moment. Her eyes are blurred, her nose feels as if it is falling off, and her hands are flying in every direction. To make it worse, the vibrations cause a slight itch in those limbs as well, greatly irritating her. Brian had decided to test a technique that he had been thinking of for a while, but the result is yet to be seen.

However, soon after, shots of brown spikes shoot out from the ground, and the fact that they are made mostly from natural soil—something Darmichrons can’t handle well—is probably the reason Brian chose this move. They instantly pierce through 5 of the beasts at once, causing terrible cries of pain. The spikes jolt high into the air, and those cries cause Julie’s ears to feel a violent, painful spike at the sheer volume, but Brian merely smiles with great joy, as that was what he had aimed to achieve. He personally had hoped for more carnage, but leaving nothing but the blood of the beasts behind was satisfactory. Julie’s worry for her brother is that he’ll become no better than the Darmichrons—good for nothing but killing—but she knows that he is only doing this to test his abilities…this time.

At the same time the spikes have appeared, Julie closes her eyes and demandingly mutters, “Come out plants and lend me strength to win!” causing vines to burst out of the ground with great power. The vines’ strength causes them to wrap around one Darmichron—engulfing it in what is to become its grave—and cutting another in half from the sheer growth rate. However, this obviously causes Julie some pain, as she collapses for a brief second, vision slightly blurred and about to faint—feeling nothing in any part of her body; only emptiness—but recovers, getting back up to fight again. She creates a small blade out of vines, continuing to lash out with her full strength in the hope she can survive. Every once in a while, she shoots out seeds to thin the numbers of her enemy, but it is clear she has weakened.

A Darmichron yells loudly, “Your powers are great, young ones, but they will not last very long! You stand no chance!” Brian, determined as he is, responds, “Maybe not, but we must try! We will not let you exterminate us!” at this time, Brian points his bloody hand at the Darmichron, rapidly shooting out a magical blast taking the appearance of an orb. This ball of energy instantly kills the beast, not even allowing it to cry out in pain, as it appears to have also had the vocal cords strangled. Brian again smiles gleefully—as this was what he had been hoping for—and knows it’s a sign that—even though his power is running dangerously low—the power in the actual attack is growing.

The temperature drops again, causing the air around the two to seem compacted into a much greater density. Julie maintains her defensive stance, while Brian pants at the effort he is putting in. His own inexperience is slowly causing his downfall, but as long as his will remains, he knows he can fight. He retakes his position, awaiting the next Darmichron advance.

“I'm afraid he’s right,” Julie says near-panicked. “We can’t withstand them forever.”
“But what other options are there?” Brian replies desperately, “We have to keep up our hope; something might change to favor us!” With another wave approaching to be on top of them in only a few seconds—eternity in a battle where your heart is beating so fast you can hear it ten feet way—Brian concentrates and uses his abilities to create a red-hilted longsword, complete with a silver blade, causing him to collapse from exhaustion, but—like Julie—ignores the fact that every bone in his body is crying out from being too tired and weak. In a display of sheer will—from his position on the ground—he stabs his sword into the earth to support his weight, gets back up with a single leap onto his feet, and removes his blade from the ground for use in combat. Moments later, another Darmichron leaps up, directly overhead and preparing to strike with a mighty force.

(To be continued)

Post #: 2
7/10/2008 15:30:11   

Episode 2

“Monroe’s Survivors”

Hello! I’m Brian; I started it all…Now with my friends’ help, I shall help set things strait, and slay our foes!

As the Darmichron comes down onto Brian, he slashes with great ease. He had arched his back for the swing, and when silver met flesh, it did not stop until Brian had cleaved the Darmichron in half, his body now arched the opposite direction. The touch of the poisonous substance can clearly be felt on his face, now splattered in his foes’ blood. And when he licks it, it tastes good, causing the bloodlust in him begins to increase and multiplying his power, but only for so long.
“That all you’ve got?” Brian taunts with a great sense of happiness, as he now seems to enjoy killing those who he might have been close to mere days before. As he shouts those words, ten more leap up, as he begins ferociously slashing away at them, killing as many as he can. He repeats his pattern; arch, slash, with the arched body, slash the other way and so on. The power flowing within him is undeniable, and more keep on falling. He let’s out a battle cry and shoots a blast that incinerates two more, causing further discomfort in Julie. When he finds a Darmichron on the ground—already beginning to die—he quickens the process with a stab through its heart. His blade is full of blood; his clothes heavy with the scent of Darmichrons. Julie continues summoning plants to slow the Darmichrons down, but it is futile. Brian’s bloodlust is the only thing keeping him alive and is slowly destroying him. “Unless you can access more of your powers in a millisecond, we won’t be able to continue on!” Julie shouts—clearly showing her distaste for these bad circumstances. It simply would not be possible for them to fight on forever, since they have a time limit. When they have sapped up their strength from lack of experience, they would die; simple as that.

“Unfortunately, while the amount of blood in my system continues to increase with my…change, I’m running out of that power! I simply can’t muster any more right now!” in a worry Brian cries out. “It’ll take a miracle to get out of this!” he finishes, as he shoots a rainbow-colored stream out of his sword to kill another, weakening him further. Now that he is so weak, his right arm gives out on him, briefly causing him to drop his sword. But he can’t just drop it, so he recovers by wielding it in only his left, despite the fact it is a two handed sword. And now it is obvious his level of blood loss would kill a normal human, but he continues on, despite the clear signs of tiring out. Stab, jump back, thrust, block, roll, hack; his strength is depleted even by these simple maneuvers. He knows this is a fight to the end, and unlike in previous years long since past when he gave up after taking some pain, he is determined to not give up until his body is nothing but a pile of ash. That time though, would rapidly descend on them, unless his little prayer is answered. He finally collapses on the ground—Darmichron about to crush his skull—and his sword vanishes into his body. Julie is faring no better; her own sword is embedded in a Darmichron a few feet away and she can no longer defend herself. They had squandered their spare energy in this fight because they know not how to be the most efficient possible.

“And a miracle is what you’ll get,” a strangely familiar voice informs, as silver arrow after silver arrow rains down on the Darmichrons, causing great surprise in Brian and Julie. They duck, but the arrows never would hit them, as the voice was clearly that of someone targeting the Darms with the same level of ferocity they feel. One Darmichron falls with five arrows in its back. Then three. And then, the whole small army seems to have fallen. Several arrows not only pierce one, but also continue to embed themselves in a second or third victim. Brian is shocked, as he sees every one of the Darmichrons dead. Some are even nothing but ash, while others simply hanging their mouths wide open in apparent fear from the certain death of a silver arrow, shooting forth at amazing speeds. The sheer carnage of someone who has controlled their abilities so well is amazing, and before they know it, a figure is standing on top of a building, holding what appears to be a rapid-fire crossbow.

“You really must be more careful, Brian; with your abilities, those Darms shouldn’t have been a challenge…I guess you just need practice.” The voice continues with a great sense of pride, friendship, and a small tint of poor sportsmanship, as it is obvious it was nothing but a competition to the voice, hidden on top of one of the few buildings still with a roof.
“Who ARE you?” Julie asks as the figure smiles, still too far away to make out the features perfectly.
“It…can’t be!” Brian exclaims as his eyes widen to show his shock.
“It is!” The voice answers, and reveals him by jumping off the building to land right next to Brian. Brian stares quite oddly at his oddly colored silver eyes, and recognizes him by voice, attitude, and basic appearance almost immediately.
“It’s you…Trevor!”

With Trevor being just three inches shorter than Brian—at 5 foot nine inches—he was still growing a little when this had happened, but now seems much taller--at 6 foot, one inch—which had caught Brian off guard, making him not immediately recognize him. After all, how could such a drastic occur in only a short while? It had not been long ago since Brian was towering over Trevor, but now is just a hair shorter. And then there are his eyes; had Brian not seen from experience eye color change, grey eyes would have shocked him. Trevor himself is in worn clothes that match the same wear as Brian and Julie’s; apparently the Washingtonian severely altered climate is not good for one’s clothes.

Shaking his blond hair, Trevor asks “Yes it is…can you guess what my power is? Come on…I can sense that you should be able to tell with your powers.” He—by now—is cheerfully staring at his old friend and at Julie, who he seems to be extra-friendly to.
“Err…arrow swarm?” Julie guesses while the three move closer together to face the general direction of the school.
“Nope, it’s transmutation!” Trevor answers with a slight grin, pointing at the store of arrows—some silver and some regular—on top of the building he had leaped from.
“Turning lead into gold?” Brian asks with the clear hint of joking, obviously annoying Trevor.
“No, silly, please don’t be so literal…It’s turning materials into other materials…though in this day and age, it is mainly steel into silver.” Trevor replies—ignoring the fact that Brian had been annoying him before—and continues “How come you couldn’t tell? I noticed you knew that I was here, but you couldn’t tell my powers? Perhaps it is just a lack of experience again, but for someone so close to nature, I would have thought your abilities exceeded my own.”

“We’re supposed to be?” Julie responds as the whole group begins walking slowly to where Trevor is guiding them.
“I guess you didn’t know…we all can sense most of each others’ powers and location, as I knew your powers the instant I sensed you…I think you two just need some practice. For instance, I can tell you two can become much more acute in your senses to Darmichrons and other people than I—currently the best around.” Trevor replies with a small hint of bragging, though Brian just shrugs at this attitude. However, something came along that Trevor did not expect, as a rouge Darmichron popped up, in which time Brian fried it. “You just had to show off, didn’t you?” Trevor laughs at Brian’s small gesture before adding “Anyway, come with us…We have a stronghold at the school.” Finally, Trevor gestures strait ahead, as that had been where he had slowly been walking to.

Before they pick up their pace, Julie whispers to Brian “Brian, I think your power is getting greater…During that battle—when all seemed lost—the temperature drastically dropped and I think you might be responsible.” This makes Brian uneasy, as he replies
“That’s not all…my hands—my left one almost completely black now, the right, almost completely green—haven’t stopped bleeding. I may have an outburst of my abilities.”
Julie then offers “Cover them up with my black gloves…they aren’t thick, but they just might hide your hands and prevent you from accidentally using your power.” Brian accepts, taking them from Julie’s outstretched arms and puts them on, squeezing his hands in a fist. The new black gloves suit him well, and in the position his hands instinctively take when putting them on serves well for oaths, so Brian quietly swears to himself “I started this; I will not rest until we can live free of our foes!”

They continue the extra distance with ease, as they go strait, instead of curving through multiple turns that would normally lengthen the trip. Brian almost turns away at the sheer amount of damage that he can observe around him; the grey ruins of the buildings are nothing like the industrial tan he is used to. However, since they travel through what was once a YMCA, it is obvious that very few buildings will even be remembered within a few weeks more. After a good ten minute walk—since they are being cautious and taking their time—they arrive at the site Brian knows all too well; his school is remarkably unchanged. Immediately, they enter through one of few entrances left, finding that there are seven other survivors, creating a grand total of ten. The seven that are there turn to greet their new guests and the two siblings can point out almost all of them as friends.
“I believe you already know some of them, but here they are anyway.” Trevor comments, as he waves his hand in a gesture to introduce them all. “Monica, Fred, Christa, Jack, Dallas, and Pacen I believe you are familiar with.” “Unfortunately, we ourselves are still discovering what we can do.” Dallas—brushing his short brown hair and looking down at the ground with his oddly purple eyes—sadly replies.
“Anyway,” Trevor continues, “the last one is David, who is somewhere in his late 20’s, and is the one who we can’t tell whose power is. He’s fast, strong, and I have witnessed his battle skills several times. But what his actually power is remains as much of a mystery as what the full extents of our own powers are.”
“Because I don’t know myself yet.” David—rubbing his dark tan skin on his hands to his black hair and staring at the group with his slightly red eyes—barely manages to reply. However, Brian takes a quick stare at Julie, almost sensing her thoughts. It’s like she can sense something that Brian missed—a feeling, possibly, of deceit? Without asking her directly, there would be no way to know.

Brian does find something else odd about David though…He has a scar on his heart, has some broken teeth, and his legs seem badly hurt. Adding to this feeling of…something not being what it appears…he has both tree and bullet look-a-like scars on his chest, visible only because he is only wearing rags. Shortly after he must have noticed Brian’s stare, however, he grabs some bigger clothes and puts them on top. “Sorry. Before coming here, I got into some rather nasty fights. Broken teeth, bad scars, damaged nails, and my clothes were destroyed.” This makes Brian feels uneasy about something, and whispers to Julie “Doesn’t he make you feel a little…uneasy?” However—just in case David can somehow hear…with his abilities Brian can’t tell—both have to be careful about what they say, for who knows what reaction they might receive from some occasional espionage? More likely than not, it would not be good.
Julie replies softly—when she is confident there are no eyes to catch her talk with Brian—“More than a little! He seems to send a chill down my bone, and just doesn’t feel correct…” Brian finishes “And I think you feel it too…He seems familiar, though I know I’ve never meet him before…” However, to himself, he mutters “Or at least, not as he is. I can’t know what ails me so much about him, but it is likely that we have met before. Under less pleasant circumstances. But where? It will just take time to tell.”

After a short rest, they whole party begins to have a chat, all sitting down around the brown rectangle table in their grey chairs. Brian is relieved to rest in this soft chair, as this must be the best he has felt since departing. The cold chair sends a soothing feeling to the hairs on his back, making him rest at ease—until those thoughts plague his mind again. As if it wasn’t enough, David sits in the oddest manner he’s ever seen…knees up—crouching on the chair—as if he is ready to jump at any time. But at least Brian is amongst seven others he knows are friends, not including his sister. This pleasant conversation the ten are having is plenty distraction to everyone except Julie, who no focuses uneasiness not at David, but at a feeling of something literally just outside the door. Perhaps her talents had awoken for a brief moment, for a danger does lurk just outside.

In the mean time the group is having their gleeful chat, there is an army of strange Darms—hiding in the shadows—and a human-like figure in the midst of them, completely hidden by the darkness. It would not take a genius to surmise that he is playing an important threat approaching. With a deep voice, he practically shouts “Very soon, we shall meet in battle!” The voice that rings out in the approaching night is that of the figure laughing with a voice that is best described as demonical.

Part Two

“Goodbye, Monroe”

“David, where are you from?” Julie had wished to ask that question since the minute she found out that he had not been in Monroe at the time of the infection, but had waited until it was less suspicious in the now gradual conversation to bring it up. Brian manages to hold back his smile at his sister’s excellent timing, while staring at one of the few windows around. By now, it is already dark out; one of several that Brian had seen. However, the night sky is not the blackness with the stars filling the sky that he is used to; around Monroe, a green and red glow combines with the night, completely hiding the moon and any stars that would reveal themselves. The fact that his eyes match the sky make Brian again wonder about his powers, but he pushes the though aside awaiting David’s response. “I was from Snohomish when this all began,” he simply responds, hiding any sign of that being trouble. “I managed to pass by you, Brian and Julie, when you were resting. I decided not to disturb you two and continued on to arrive five days ago.” However, at this, Brian and Julie nervously look at each other. Julie had been focusing her worry on what might have been an external threat, but this comment had redirected her attention. “Alright, he’s hiding something; there’s no ‘I think’ about it! A blind man could point out that he has a secret that is large enough for him to lie like this. Sure, his claim of passing us might be true, but I only slept three times during the trip, and only one of those was before the time he stated.” The conversation seems to die down as every topic seems to have been killed, but with the awkward silence, it would not be a good way to rest. So shortly after, conversation starts up again—this time it is Trevor curiously asking, “How come it took you two so long to get here? It would normally be a 20-minute drive between the two cities, yet it has been just over a week since this all happened.”

At this, Brian looks down shamefully…the mention of “all this happened” reminds him that it is his entire fault. He hesitates for a few seconds, thinking about how to keep a positive attitude. But he can’t exactly hide the shame on his face, though after a few seconds of overcoming that feeling, he explains slightly humorously “Well, between the fact that every car we tried to drive in broke down, the obstacles of countless broken, tattered, destroyed cars—amongst other things—plus Darms attacking us, we just might have been better off on foot. All of those—plus a few others—delayed us to roughly 3 miles a day and having to go 21 miles…not the best way to get there fast!” The whole group either grins or laughs at his response, cheering Brian up a little. Amongst those currently there, Trevor had always been the most humorous, but the change meant that, for Brian, humor might be all they have.

Conversation then ends, as the whole group is getting a little tired, so after a meal—Brian doesn’t even want to bother asking how his school, which never had any food, suddenly had the reserves—the whole group decides to sleep in makeshift mattresses. In other words, the tables they had met at earlier. Brian awakes first, outstretching his arms to refresh himself, before jumping off the table to wait for the others to wake up. “More time to think. Exactly what I need. More time to think about how this is my entire fault.” Brian had planned not to say that, but as everyone is asleep, he had accidentally muttered it anyway. However Julie appears to be just awake enough to comment “With that attitude, it’s like you want to die.” Maybe she said that consciously knowing it was at Brian; maybe to her it was a dream. No way to know, but Brian shrugs and thinks “Julie—sad as it may be—you might have found something out about me that I did not know myself.” A few hours later—An eternity for someone who has too many thoughts on his or her mind—the group wakes up—all in a similar matter. The school has plenty of personal sleeping space, but for some reason—perhaps security—they all chose to sleep together. Another thing that is unusual for a good portion of the group is the fact that they have to sleep in their normal street clothes. Who knows when they could be attacked? At the morning discussion, the group is in debate about what they should do today, though Trevor suggestively asks “Why don't we use this spare time to train, with luck, discovering more of our true power?”

With those words, it is official, so the group prepares. David decides to sleep because apparently ‘Training won’t help me for discovering what I wish to’ and ‘Anyway, I was up later than anyone else and could use the rest’. Of course, this causes Brian and Julie more suspicions, but they have no time to waste pondering his decision. The rest of the group decides to divide into the three sections of the building. The main part—the library and the same location the whole group has taken refuge in—with double-door emergency exits, turned to a steel-brick-silver combination by Trevor. The greatest fortress of all the locations by Trevor’s claim. It also featured some other rooms—many with emergency exits—however all of them have been permanently sealed, again by Trevor. However, one room remains open at the time training is starting… the primary school computer lab, which—at once—held over 30 brilliant black computers, though now has only 15 working ones. However, 15 working ones and a telephone make it one of the primary sources of communication for the 10. Though since this had started, the phone remains silent and the internet is shaky at best. The last of the areas mentionable in this third of the school is the gathering room—where everyone ate—labeled a key point because it had one of the main entrances—which is also sealed mostly off—currently featuring a one-way door out. It is relatively isolated, only having a room locked out with an emergency exit, the one-way door, and two double-door entrances from the library. At least, now. Before the start of these events, there had been the entrance to the other third, but that is only able to be opened by Trevor. He does so when letting the other two groups through, then temporarily seals it off again. The door he seals off is his ‘gate’ separating the fortress to have only Trevor, Julie, Brian, and the sleeping David contained within.

On the other side, there is the middle section, consisting primarily of three rooms. Of course, there is also what once was the ‘teen room’—the first thing on the other side of the gate—and the secondary ‘teen room’—nothing but a few chairs, a table, and a chess board. People like Brian—well, except for slightly less addicted to computers so actually spending more time there than Brian—would hang out in this location to hang out, play chess, eat, socialize and so on. Bordering the two teen rooms, there is the small school door—the only reserve of food the school once had—and Brian had not chosen this section because it had just opened again after months of vacancy, so the pain of seeing it vacant again would be too great. Of the three rooms, one is a computer lab, formerly equipped with eight rows of six computers each—divided into two sections to make four rows of computers with three per row—was the secondary computer lab. However—out of all of those 42 or so computers, only two remain. As for the other rooms, they are completely deserted. The last feature is the secondary exit to the building—down the hallway the three rooms are in, once called rooms 12, 13, and 14, with 14 being the secondary computer lab—which is only one of two fully unsealed entrances. Monica, Pacen, and Christa decide this section best suits them. So they seal themselves in, hoping for some nice, quite, peaceful training.

After another barricade—just past the secondary ‘teen room’—there’s the last section. It featured 6 rooms, the first coming from the barricade being spacious, but currently deserted. Walking to the right a little, the third that one would encounter is a little bit of a hidden computer lab, located with one door barely visible except from the opposite side. Inside, you can see why the other two computer labs have greater value, as it features only one working computer now. Of course, originally it must have held at least ten or so, but time and the chaos unleashed destroyed the rest. Walking further to the right, there is room 18. It features no doors—only a fence made to keep people much younger away—but is next to one of the original primary exits, sealed off to prevent attack. It had six working computers, but this wing of the school had suffered the most damage of all, so none are working currently. Two other rooms—one formerly crowded, the other with two entrances, well equipped, and spacious—were the rooms next to another one of the main exits, just left of the gate in stead of right. Now with all of the exits sealed for the other wing of the building, this one is the primary exit and entrance for survivors. Since it is the most vulnerable to attack, it is the section that is the hardest to get through. It also is the reason why everyone takes refuge in the other wing of the building…if an attack comes from this area, the other wing would be the last to fall. The remaining—Fred, Jack, and Dallas—decide this place is best to train.

Training is vicious, but Brian and Julie quickly train their powers in some fields, managing to enhance their current powers and can’t seem to discover the rest of them. However, the whole team is experiencing similar troubles and all who reveal their training are all saying that something is blocking them from going any farther. However, at least Brian feels that his best power goal—become the most efficient at usage of power—is his strongest point. But the frustration is mounting and Julie can’t hold it back much longer; maybe it is because a presence seems to be approaching and her slightly enhanced abilities sense it. The good portion of the three’s training is meditating to see their inner limits; some success that is, so they think sarcastically. However, there is more to it, as Julie, Brian, and Trevor also are sparring with each other’s own blades; hacking, slashing, thrusting, dodging, parrying, and stabbing as they wish. But this merely trains their melee skill, so they also launch blasts of their powers at each other to spice things up a little. Julie’s seeds are now twice as effective as when she started and her vines are becoming quite the immobilizer. Brian’s magic is beginning to use less blood, but not to his comfort level. Trevor himself has experimented with his own abilities, changing not only materials to other materials, but also color, shape and size.

“For some reason, we just can't seem to learn of our other powers!” Julie frustratingly stomps as she stands up from yet another meditation session. Brian sighs, and then slowly responds as he himself gets out of the cross-legged stance to stretch his legs out, “But at least we are getting stronger and I think I’m beginning to sense what my potential is. We just need to do some serious training, maybe finding a Darmichron or two to test our abilities on.” Had Julie not been so angry at how little progress she feels like they are making—despite days of training—she probably would remember that threat again, but every time she thinks about it, she does not mention it to the others. Trevor also adds positively—by this time already standing up and walking out to put some blood into his legs—“Not to mention, I think your skills of sensing have grown more powerful than any of ours!” This does comfort Julie a little bit, but still, the feeling—which she can’t remember yet again—seems to be approaching. And coming closer to strangle her to death in an eternal darkness. What could make this happen?

On the other side of the building, Dallas has been training hard, so he discovers his talent as a teleporter and that he can teleport up to three people 200 feet, twice with little rest. The distance and amount of times is increased when there is less of a load, and likewise, decreases for greater loads. Also, sacrificing distance can produce more times, and sacrificing times that he can teleport in a row creates extra distance. In the rest of his spare time, he works on decreasing the time between rests, going from five minutes to three. Still, he is unsatisfied with his low power, as this teleporting ability will be of little use in a battle situation. And he wishes to fight, so why is he tormented with such a weak power? He doesn’t want to fully know the answer; only how to counter his feeling of weakness. What good is he if all he can do is run an errand or two? So this is what he trains on. He holds no weapons whatsoever; he might never become a fighter. All he does is meditate and practice. It is frustrating, but he lives with it. At least he’ll help somewhat, even if that help really would not be needed.

Jack discovers he can run at super speeds, allowing his long grey hair to fly behind him. No good in combat, but he craves speed, not strength. His weapon is his bare legs, as they are as strong as any blow, but this is still not what he wants either. Initially it was only 100 miles per hour, but after training—creating a mini-cyclone in that side of the building in the process—he can now go over 300, without even blurring his orange eyes. Not to mention, with some concentration, he can lend some of this speed to others. But still, his speed’s best strength is the hope that a Darmichron or two will fall; he too feels like nothing but a messenger. Training is the key, so to compensate, he sometimes throws a kick or two, though mostly meditates and practices. The last of the group is feeling slightly better, but not much. Fred discovers that he is very strong, and has yet to find something he can't lift. To prove this, he lifted a few cars at the same time, showing how his strength is that of no other. It is useful for cracking skulls, knocking opponents out cold, and hard labor, but overall is still not as strong as the others. To make up for this, however, he also learns how to hover, hoping of learning how to fly in the future, or at least to hover others. So he trains, meditates, and punches an object or two. He’d feel like a superhero if it weren’t for one flaw…unlike those in comic books, he has no indestructible skin…that he knows of.

However, the three girls in the middle section seem to like toying with the rest of the group, since they refuse to reveal a single piece of information about their training each day when the groups reunite. The info on training is relayed to each other when they again meet in the library for what will be their last day of training, though the girls training in the middle section yet again do not say what they had trained. Pressured as they are, they still do not tell, as perhaps they just don’t want to accept how strong or weak they are. David had occasionally left the building—supposedly to train—but was again asleep at the meeting. Though shortly after the usual bickering about the girls’ training, David wakes up, leaps of the table in a battle stance, his fingernails instantly extend—becoming claws—and he grows four fanged teeth, which slightly unnerves Brian. As if Brian had not been unnerved enough. Julie is shocked by a sudden powerful presence and finally puts her finger on what had been slipping her mind. Too late for any sort of serious reaction. At the same time, Brian takes off his gloves, preparing his own battle stance and Julie shivers with slight fear. By now, the three can all sense just how close this danger is, knowing that it is not good. Julie curses at her lack of sensing it before, but the rest of the group is still puzzled at the actions of the three. She draws her own vine sword—basically constructed out of three vines intertwining to form the blade, hilt, and guard—and takes a stance prepared for battle.

“What is it?” Trevor fearfully asks as he transmutes a leg into a silver sword to match his friends. Whatever it is, something is keeping him from sensing it, while the three still can. This is puzzling to Trevor, but he has no time to think of such things. His own battle stance is prepared, as he places one hand on the table and aims his sword in the direction the three are facing. “It’s the Darmichrons…They are coming!” All three reply simultaneously. But Julie warns “Be careful; these beasts double in number that of what we faced before and from their presence, I can tell they are stronger. We’ve gotten better, but only a little, so we’re in for one tough fight!”

At this revelation, everyone prepares his or her powers. Not a single person is not standing up in a position suggesting their own powers, as Dallas is at the front of the door the group faces, Jack begins stretching out his legs in a Chinese split and leaning from one side to the other, Fred is standing near the front hovering, ready to pound the beasts, and so on. For some reason, they are not coming from the opposite wing, but instead seem to intend to barge right in and kill the source. Brian grips his sword tightly, holding it diagonally to cover his body in a position that both guards and allows attacks. However, he realizes that his long sword—though good at cutting flash—simply will not do at the moment, so he temporarily sends it away. Everyone’s heart races and they hear a thump on the strongest barricade the school-fort contains. Thump after thump hits the door and everyone braces for the worst. Suddenly, the Darms rip through the double door emergency exit that Trevor had sealed with great ease, temporarily shocking Trevor. That door had been so thick—reinforced with the materials Darmichrons despise—yet they had broken through so easily. But he prepares himself again, determined to kill as many as he can and to out-do Brian. As soon as one came through, everyone lets loose. Trevor turns chairs into silver arrows and shoots with great efficiency; Brian shoots blast after Blast, before creating a sword, now in a katana style. Julie shoots seeds, Dallas teleports them into the walls with his purple portal, Jack runs around them fast enough to create a cyclone, occasionally kicking them as a distraction to prevent them from noticing they are being tossed into the air with nothing to breathe. Fred—hovering above them—pounds them with his powerful fists, and David begins ripping them to shreds with monstrous efficiency, which scares Brian and Julie with further thoughts. “Trev wasn’t exaggerating at David’s ferocity; he really is wild in battle. But what does this mean?”

The thought is pushed away as the battle continues, but Brian is not the only one to notice just how different these beasts are. The yellow eyes with the tint of red, the extra-long claws and teeth…all spell something more than what meets the eye. “Something’s not right!” Trevor exclaims with a look in his eye Brian had never seen before suggesting fear, “silver isn’t working! How…can they be…immune?” Trevor struggles at the effort to create the silver arrows he launches now without his crossbow, eventually abandoning the effort with a shrug and running into the midst of the Darmichrons, back arched to swing through. Brian, with effort from the attack, continues “That's not all…they’re faster, stronger, and larger than any I’ve seen before, and I suspect that the unusual black skin is harder, too!” With these words, Brian attempts to cut another in half, meeting great resistance and only getting through when he channels a small amount of his blood into the blade to make it glow red for a second. Brian takes a brief look at the ‘battle’, but things are not well. Julie is already beginning to tire from taking out a mere ten; Trevor is loosing his strength because he exhausted himself with the arrows before. Dallas has backed away from the fighting, nearly collapsing from the fact that he exerted too much energy, and Jack is now relying on just his kicks, which just slow the Darmichrons down. Fred has abandoned the skies for power and had felled at least ten more, yet is weakening from the dodging of these blows when he is not built for such speeds. Brian and David are the only ones effectively still fighting, yet the enemy is still at least 120 in number—likely more.

“We might be powerful, but these things outnumber us 20 to one and are simply too strong!” David observes as he tears through another, covering himself in blood, “We need to run away!” With this, he jumps over the Darmichron behind him, slashing at its eyes to disable it.
“And just how do we do that?” Dallas asks when teleporting a Darm into a wall with the last effort he can exert, bending his back over and letting his arms hang from the effects of battle. His hands had always been up until that moment, guiding where the portals appeared and disappeared, but the fact that he had put them down was a sign he was defeated. He needs morale, and Brian may be the only one capable of giving it. “Alright, for the moment, I’ll pretend I’m cut out to be a leader and guide my friends to safety.” Brian lifts Dallas up and orders “Alright, if they have come from here, let us retreat to the other end closer to say…an actual exit? We don’t want to be cornered, so let’s go!” Brian shoves the eight not fighting away and slowly steps back, fighting the Darms with arch after arch swinging through. His magic is being used more and more, so he knows it is only a matter of time. David’s amazing agility and dexterity would most likely fail as well soon enough, so the two retreat behind the double doors of the gathering room, backs up against the gate. But then, they realize something. “David, we need an escape vehicle fast enough, yet large enough for all of us, right?” “That would most likely be true.” “Do you have enough energy to retake lost ground and push through the hole?” “Like I’d loose to you!” The two laugh and shout through the wall “We have a new plan; follow us!”

From there, they fight back briefly until the reach the gap, at which—half way across the complex—Brian then notices an old blue car, and replies “I recognize this model of car, and it has the keys in it! An old ‘88 suburban…the same type of car I was learning to drive in…my family’s car! Except the fact that it’s blue and white instead of red and white, and it has no car carrier, it is the same!” Dallas knows his services may be required one last time, so he prepares himself for one last jump, hoping that it will be good enough. “Dallas, take as many as you can; we’ll fight our way there!” Dallas nods and teleports—actually managing two trips—but can’t go any further so he takes a seat in the suburban. When Brian fights closer to the suburban, Julie finally realizes what he is planning. Julie yells with regret “Oh, no…not again!” while at the same time, Trevor asks puzzled “how does this help us?”
“It is a nine-seater with plenty of cargo space, meaning we can all get in, and Jack can easily keep up with us. But be warned, the top speed is only 80 miles an hour.” Brian answers truthfully. By now, the whole group is at the car, just waiting and Trevor quickly fastens a key to open the door and another to start the engine.

“That’ll work, just one thing…who’s driving?” David inquires as he slices another Darmichron in half. “No choice people; I’m the only one who can drive this thing!” Brian replies as he slashes at the last Darmichron preventing him from reaching his goal. Julie cries terribly “Oh, great, we’re all doomed!” And at the same time, Trevor gets a stomachache and everyone else—Jack being the exception—has a very worried look in his or her eyes. As they get in—though it isn’t comfy—they drive off to the East with only minimal supplies, as they had no time to gather any. Julie softly mutters “Goodbye, my home…Goodbye, Monroe.”

In Monroe, the same human figure declares sinisterly “You can run, but you can't escape your fate…My pets were only there to test you! And my army will be rebuilt twice the size of before, never to be defeated by your likes!”
At this time, everyone in the party can sense—though maybe not notice—the fact that—even through all that distance—his laughter has grown much louder, and much stronger.

(To be continued)

Post #: 3
7/10/2008 15:33:17   

Episode 3


Hello! I’m Brian; I started it all…Now with my friends’ help, I shall help set things strait, and slay our foes!

“You told me that 80 mph would be good enough!” Brian shouts back at David from the steering wheel in a rather annoyed tone. “And I thought it would be!” David snaps back, also showing some worry as well. As Brian looks through his mirror, which says ‘objects in mirror are closer than they appear’, he sees the Darmichrons dangerously close. A few feet from the car close. “Well, obviously not! They’re gaining on us!” Brian is clearly worried, as he knows that they simply must have this car to make it anywhere. A few feet when closer than they appear means that they are literally inches away, giving a minute or two at most before they can latch onto the car and rip it to shreds. “Hey, Trev, can you modify the engine to go faster?” Brian stares directly behind him—right at Trevor—with a slight tint of a plan, though whatever he plans to do is dependant on the response. “I’m not that quick! Just because I was going to become a mechanic doesn’t mean that I instantly know how to make a kind of modification like that!” Trevor nervously replies…he doesn’t want to get trapped any more than Brian does. Trevor is at the ready in his window—seatbelt unfastened—to fight at a moment’s notice, but he, too, knows that without a car, they are doomed. Not a member in the car does not have their heart pumping, knowing that there is simply nothing they can do at the moment. And Jack is just trying to keep himself from getting a nasty mauling from his pursuers, so he can’t slow them down either.

By estimates, the Darms are running at 85 miles an hour, so to out-distance their pursuers, they need at least 90. Desperate, Brian thinks of a last-minute plan. “But can you freeze the roadway?” he shouts back, as Trevor ponders the thought. What could he be planning? “Yes, but why would I want to…” Trevor begins to question, while there are mixed feelings around the car. David has a nice grin on his face at the cleverness of the plan; he must already know. Julie, however, is pale from fear. She knows how her brother thinks and she doesn’t like the plan. The rest of the group is all confused, however, as they see no logic in this decision. “Just do it!” Brian shouts, as he braces himself. Trevor shouts back “I hope you can control the car without any friction on it!” as he races outside of the window—still holding onto the door with all the strength he has in one hand. He then presses his hands onto the roadway—Julie holding him back—freezing it in a thick layer of ice. Jack simultaneously grabs onto the front door where Brian is driving—knowing he’d fall behind—and as a last modification, Trevor adds makeshift spikes to the tires on the move. Brian begins to struggle with the slide, but the tires help little. The Darmichrons are falling behind from slipping; the car is zooming and sliding at roughly 100 mph. They are yet again safe, at least for the moment. Brian sighs at his luck, staring at his comrades. Jack is on top—grabbing on for his life—Julie has pulled Trevor inside, who is to exhausted to think, and the rest of the group lets out an identical sigh to Brian’s. David, however, merely grins at what he realized to be a bold plan from the start, muttering to Brian when the rest of the group is sleeping during the night “Clever plan there, Brian. You really are looking like a leader at this point and time.” Brian harshly whispers back to him “It was a one-time situation. And don’t bother with the school; I did it because I was the only one capable of driving this behemoth.” David then sighs—not from relief but somewhat out of pity—simply muttering “If that is what you think. You would be surprised at your hidden talent, Brian. I should know better than anyone else.”

The group continues driving with the feeling of security, oblivious to dangers they may face. About three hours later, however—at the town of Silverbar—the car stops, smoke bellowing from the engine. “Well, Trevor, we should have enough time for you to fix the engine now!” David smirks, as he is always looking for the chance to torture other party members. Brian, Julie, and Trevor all shoot him a nasty glare, but at least he had meant it humorously. They know already that most of the time, comments like that are meant as insults; today it was just an average comment. David just doesn’t seem to fit in as well, but he has proven himself a close friend and ally and Brian passionately believes that he has great potential. Accepting the fact that they are stuck for a while, everyone vacates the car, leaving Trevor to work on the engine, and generally everything under the hood. Brian leaves his door open—as the front row doors are needed for repairs—and decides to take a look around. He knows this town well; he often passed it on his various field trips years ago. It is the next town after Monroe, the distance being that far for no known reason.

He looks around the area, finding familiar shops and the reptile zoo nearby. All buildings still in tact are empty; stores long-since depleted. The lush green hills on both sides of the town extend on for miles, so this area—full of rivers and unusual wildlife before—was very popular with environmentalist classes at his school. However, he turns away from the thousands of evergreens, the thought again popping up into his head about why this is his entire fault. The sky is at least clearer hear, only a trace of green in the sky. While the buildings are ruined, at least they maintain somewhat of their original forms, as broken signs, torn shop windows, and such devices meant to advertise products seem somewhat still in tact. After brief further exploration—not interested in the broken buildings—Brian goes up to Dallas to ask a favor, which no one else hears. Shortly afterwards, Dallas nods and teleports away, going unnoticed as if Brian wants his re-appearance later to be a surprise. Now this is no small favor, as it greatly will tax his friend and possibly requiring multiple trips, but he has his reasons. “How’s the engine modifications going, Trev?” Brian—staring and Trevor completely buried by the car—asks as soon as Dallas is gone. Trevor slides out of his position and briefly to respond “Oh, shut up!”

He stands up and lifts the hood up, a few seconds later causing a blast of steam expands from a valve, forcing Trevor to cough a little. “Not well, then. We should get going within a few hours, seeing as how they will catch up soon.” The subject is worrisome, but Brian decides not to torture Trevor any further, and instead goes around with Julie salvaging spare items for the trip bound to come up ahead. They have to go somewhere and they might not see a town again for quite some time, so preparation is a must. “I wonder, Brian…do you still have your school supplies from that day?” Julie asks, as Brian reaches in his pockets, only to find he still has his pencil, eraser, and flashdrive in them. “Yup. I guess I never thought about throwing them away. The pencil was useful for when I still had to use so much effort—I still do, but now my hands bleed by themselves—and the others I didn’t even care to notice.” The two are walking on the path that was once the highway and main road of the town and as they stare at each other, the two have a brief moment of silence. From the distance behind them—about where the car is—they hear a little bit of an explosion, at which they hear a loud “Arg!” from that same location, followed by the same voice shouting “My bad!” Julie and Brian share a laugh at Trevor’s little situation, both then talking about how much they appreciate him. “Without him, we’d be dead twice now,” Julie comments with a tint of admiration, continuing “and his abilities are very powerful. He would have grown up to be one of the most popular around and now fills that role anyway.”

Brian agrees, stating “Yea, he’s a great man. He shows qualities similar to those of leadership and I see such potential in him.” However, at this comment, Julie swerves in front of Brian, somewhat startling him. “Brian, I agree that he is a very talented person—I admire his strength—and he may be a good leader, but face the truth and stop hiding it…you are the one who should be leading; Trev himself believes that. I believe it as well. I can’t speak for all—Trev is the only one I’ve talked to about it—but I believe that everyone here has the same opinion.” Brian—stubborn as he is—refuses to accept this, but his conversation with David earlier is a reminder of just how much they see in him. But how can he be the leader? He caused this whole mess; he just will end up killing his friends because he is someone who just messes up. Trevor had saved them; he couldn’t continue fighting. He had been forced to retreat when he should have pushed forward, something he should have never done as it made his job later harder. He ran out of energy when the rest kept fighting on, only being encouraged by Trevor’s determination and David’s skill. And he had relied on Trevor to save them yet again from his foes when the car was at risk. He thinks that he is not worthy of the position; at first he couldn’t even kill a lowly Darmichron! But Julie can see the look in his face and they had slowly been walking back to the group, Brian’s look still on his face. He doesn’t need to say a word for everyone who manages a glimpse of him to know what he is thinking, Julie being the only one daring to comfort him.

Julie again tries to cheer Brian up, this time by changing the subject. Changing the subject is probably the most frequent thing in the whole group’s conversations; often the topics they had been on lead to silence from the pain those thoughts end up bringing. This time, she guides Brian into a local river, telling him that they need a refresher. It had been a while since Brian had swum, so this would most likely feel good. The two jump in fully clothed in a shallow area, enjoying the ice-cold water rushing over their bodies. They can always dry off later and the whole group—including Trevor at Julie’s persuasion—takes a little bit of a break. The only one refusing to go in is David, stating that such activities are too childish for his tastes. Brian is one of the first to get out, convinced he has wasted enough time on soothing recreation. Trevor follows afterwards, knowing that he, too, has work to do. The whole group leaves a few minutes later, two out of the three who had encouraged the recreation gone to work again. Brian decides that there is nothing better to do than to help Trevor, not wishing to explore the town he once knew any further. Eventually, the whole group has gathered again—Dallas still gone—next to the car where Brian and Trevor continue to work. The group converses on a few subjects, touching only those that seem empty of pain.

When Julie asks where Dallas has gone, Brian simply replies “Oh, I’m sure he’s just wandering around and will be back soon.” For the moment, he obviously does not want to reveal why he sent Dallas away. However, Julie thinks about it and can’t seem to remember even feeling Dallas’s presence since she started to chat with Brian earlier. The group begins to search for a place to rest besides the car—the day half gone as it is—and work on the car is nearing completion. Obviously, the car was in worse condition that what Trevor had initially thought, though the upgrades he is installing also gobble up precious time. A few hours later, Dallas returns, holding a bunch of supplies. Blankets, quilts, pillows, and sheets for sleeping are amongst them and then there are survival supplies, including 27 water bottles—one of which is a two-liter waterbottle which Brian acquires possession of—and a water jug. He had gone to get supplies for the journey bound to come up ahead. Brian informs the group “We left in such a hurry, we did not bring any supplies. Dallas has gone to get things we’re bound to need in the future.” The entire group is in awe of their oversight and how Brian had caught this little detail. Julie had been touching the subject earlier without knowing it, though this kind of measure was not anticipated by anyone. Brian obviously is hiding something that he doesn’t wish to reveal, the supplies just being a cover. Brian himself seems to have also kept some personal objects that he sent Dallas to get, for reasons no one else can determine, though they assume he must have a good reason. However, even with those, he seems to be cloaking something. Brian—quite happy with the scenery, not wishing to help the other’s search, and convinced that Trevor needs no further help—decides to train himself just a little longer. Despite all of this, they don’t seem that interested, as everyone again goes off wandering around. Julie shoots him a few stares, but decides that she’ll get back to him later.

He draws his katana—which he now often keeps at his side instead of sending it away—and does a quick few movements he learned from sparring years ago and experience from personally killing with a similar weapon. Parry, Dodge, Thrust, Block, Downward Slash, and Uppercut, and so on, completely randomized. He arches his back on many of the blows, trying to get as much power as possible. Even on his defensive movements, he puts enough strength into them to hurt even a Darmichron. Occasionally, he will stop to send a red blast out, just for a finishing touch, or just shoot a solid stream from his sword. He is determined to train himself to his limit, wishing to go beyond his perceived limits. But how? The only way he knows how to, of course, being through his training. He goes by the philosophy of ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect’, but what exactly is perfect? He can train his body, but what good will it do to his powers? He simply can’t tell what to do to train, the only answer being time. At the very least, he needs to be in good physical condition, as any less would make him completely worthless. “I know that every person here has potential to access much greater power, and I intend to obtain every inch of my own!” Eventually, Julie interrupts him, looking at her battered brother. He is panting pretty heavily, yet still continues slashing away, oblivious of her presence. He seems to be shooting more and more blood out of his system, frustrated in the fact that the attacks are just as strong as they were a few hours ago. After she gets up from her position on a stump, she walks over to him on his right side, stating “Hey, Brian, you can’t train all day, you know…at the moment we’re all plenty strong, but you need to rest like us. Come with me and see the school here. It seems like a good resting place, if you can overcome how much it resembles ours.”

Brian, however, can disagree with every argument that Julie had given. He needs to train all day in his mindset, as he sees himself as weak. And the fact that the school is in tact enough to be a pain to his memories would most likely be unbearable. He turns to face Julie, eventually submitting. “Alright, I’ll come with you,” Brian states as he walks away, taking no note of the scenery around him. Julie informs “There were only two locations that we could find with enough of a roof to rest under, one the hospital and the other the school. The school brings mental pain, but at least it brings a sense of security. For some reason, at the very least David and I seem to have an unnatural fear of the local hospital, so we couldn’t choose that location. Anyway, the school is closer to the car—being right next to it—so we should have no work to do.” Once passing the car—Trevor finally stopping, presumably finished—Brian finds the two sets of double doors that lead to the inside of the large building.

Brian enters, and immediately spots what must have been the lunch room. Walking about thirty feet, he turns left—ignoring the school’s main administration that is the first door to the right—proceeding inside. Julie is impressed with how well he knows this school; he’d never been there, though this school is in a similar layout to what he knows. Turning again once inside the lunch room, he walks about a hundred feet to find what must be the band room. Of course, there are more direct routes to the bad room, a door cutting into the lunch room and two doors—one near and one inside—on the band room, but he ignores those routes as unimportant. Trevor—unlike at their school—decided to leave the doors open, just in case they need out fast. Opening the brown—in stark contrast to the red doors everywhere else—doors, he finds the cold metal handle turned 90 degrees to face down to be painful, though ignores it as he walks inside—followed by Julie—and lets the door close behind him. Everyone is inside, so when he enters, they all greet him with a friendly stare and some smiles. It is getting late, so the group wishes to chat, though Brian asks for just a moment to look around. Alone, so the rest of them press the door to move briefly outside, with Julie stating “Take your time…the longer you’re up, the quicker you’ll fall asleep…remember, you no longer have to tax yourself by watching Anime ‘til two in the morning, and only getting four hours of sleep almost every day of the week.” With those words, she allows the door to close to leave Brian to think about the location deemed the most suitable for a night’s rest.

Brian runs his hand across the wall…through is glove, he can clearly feel the little holes in the metal plating. The plates cover most of the semicircle room and every one has a small hole in it, for reasons that always mystified Brian. Perhaps they were meant for sound acustics; with the original designer long-since dead—since he would be well over 30—there would be no way to know. The design on the holes even matches that of the band room he knew so well, with only one slight difference. In one section, the plating has been removed and the bare cyan wall beneath the plating shows quite clearly that someone had used that plate since this started, but they had searched the town…who was it, and where did that person go? He can’t answer that question. But at least the thought gives him hope. Someone had survived the disaster besides them, but that person is long-since gone. Whoever it is obviously is traveling alone; remnants of supplies suggest that there is only one person taking a safe amount with him or her. However, observing the semi-circle room, he looks back at where he had first put his had—next to the emergency exit—and notes something that obviously he had been responsible for. Silently, he curses at himself when he sees that running his had along the wall, blood has dripped out…the glove is no longer effective. Using that blood, he cleans up the mess a little, but leaves the hand print of blood he had made on the bare section of wall. “I’ll ask Trev for a favor a little later,” he comments to himself, as he enters what was once a storage room.

Of all the items there, only one trumpet is gone and the rest are all there. Flute cases, Trombone cases, clarinet cases, saxophone cases, and above all else, percussionist instruments are lying around, but the fact that the percussionist instruments are in there is a little worry. Why had they been moved from the back of the room? Probably in panic, students tried to blockade themselves in there. That is, if they survived. Very few skeletons exist, as the Sarciller usually turns them to ashes or Darmichrons eat them whole. Another thing disturbing him is the fact that all band folders in the case in the back are empty. Sure, some differences from his school would exist and they would be large, but this meant that someone must have cleared them out. What could someone want with those folders? Yet another question he cannot answer. Brian tries his hardest to push out the thought that all the people here were probably playing their instruments when this happened, and probably stood no chance. Neither the thought of students being killed nor the thought of survivors leaving mysteries are rather pleasant, so he is quite disturbed by the simultaneous thoughts.

Julie then enters the room, closing the door quietly behind her and heading directly for the storage room. She can sense where he is—her abilities have gotten better—and seems to even be able sense what he is thinking—though unclear if by her abilities or just logic—telling him “Try not to think about it…That was my band room as well as yours, so it hurts me to see something so similar, but with you, it is much worse. I can’t even imagine how you truly feel, but I have a good idea. Rest, Brian. We’ll set forth in the morning.” Brian opens the door to let the rest in, signaling he has some peace of mind for the moment. Since the sky now shines black with white stars shining in the sky, it does not take long to succumb to sleepiness. The rest of the group takes only minutes to fall asleep, but for Brian, it takes hours. By midnight, he finally begins to succumb to the effect of sleepiness, and gets asleep an hour earlier than what he would normally. He had managed 1:00 am to finally rest, now somewhat at ease. Julie wakes up first—at dawn—moving slowly from lying down, kneeling, then standing up and extending her hands out with a yawn. She takes a quick look around, seeing that Brian is already up, sitting on the only table in the room. She is rather startled at how Brian is up before her, briefly thinking that he got no sleep. But he has no rings around his eyes, so he likely got at least some. She also seems to be sensing that he is rested, so the question is “How come you don’t get enough sleep?” “I’ve got too many things on my mind. Anyway, since the change, I doubt I need eight hours, and it is probably half of that.” Julie actually thinks about it, admitting that she herself does not need as much sleep as she used to, and the others also seem to have cut off an hour or two. “I suppose you don’t want to see the rest of the town?” She asks, trying to lighten the mood. “How’d you guess?” Brian asks sarcastically, explaining in a more serious tone “I simply don’t feel like looking at how—out of billions of people—the only survivors I know of are right here.” “You know that isn’t true. There are probably still millions alive, hiding in areas where Darms can’t reach. Then there are others who might have moved on a long time ago, doing something similar to what we are.”

This comforts Brian, but not for long. David is the first to wake up after Julie, followed by Trevor, and then the rest in rapid succession. All get up in a similar fashion to Julie, David being the exception instead of choosing to get a crunch or two before leaping up onto his feet. “We’ll be leaving soon, so be sure to pack up!” The order is from Brian—shocked at even himself for making it—the whole group follows Brian’s order. However, Julie drags Brian out for sightseeing, much to Brian’s dismay. She is taking advantage of his hood, choking him if he resists. Literally dragged out unwillingly, he has no choice but to follow her as she forces him to look at the scenery he just glanced at and left before. “Look at the beautiful hill, covered by the yellow, orange, and red lights of the sun rising. Look at the rocks that you once admired and the forests dotting the landscape. You once enjoyed it. Enjoy it now, or else you may slip into a state worse than death,” she slowly orders him, forcing Brian to think. He already thinks he’s in a state worse than death, but she is right in the fact that he’d just get worse with his depression. “I know.” With those two words, he forces a smile and stares in apparent awe at the great sight. He mutters to himself that he will try to maintain the positive attitude when the two current most optimistic members of the group—Trevor and Julie—fail and fall into a state similar to his. This is the least he can do to try and help his friends through the worst, so his true attitude must remain a secret.

When the whole group is ready, Trevor drags Brian aside, and demands “Brian, we can’t simply keep on running, so we need a plan. We’ll have a ten minute meeting, and then we leave. It is not an unreasonable request, since not one of us made you leader yet. You obviously don’t want the position right now, doubting yourself, but at the least you can agree to this meeting.” Trevor’s grip on Brian’s jacket on the school symbol is tight and dead serious; backed against the wall, he really has not much of a choice. Brian is reluctant, but agrees. The group sits in ten chairs—taken from the school for use—next to the car, and Trevor is the first to speak. “We have been running, and running. We’re in Silverbar—not so far away from where we started—and we keep mindlessly wandering. We need a place to go. We are going practically nowhere, just wandering. We need a plan.” The whole group had been thinking about it, but only Brian has an answer. The only thing is how to word such a plan that would give them hope. He is ambitious, so perhaps if he manages to hide his doubts, the group will be more at ease than he.

Brian thinks about it for a long second, and then answers “We search for survivors. We travel the world, heading East towards New England, then sail to England. From there, we travel through Europe and Asia going mostly through Russia. We go to Japan, then head back west, covering southern Asia and Europe where we missed before. We then go through the deserts of Africa, then head for Australia. Once there, we head back up through Russia, and then cross the arctic back to Alaska. We head south, and with all of the survivors we have found, we go back to our home of Monroe. We start a community of all the survivors, and we will be free of Darmichrons forever.” Brian’s plan is ambitious, but what else will they do? Run for their lives, and hope that ten people can keep the human race alive? No, they would need allies. They would need a plan, and Brian had just offered them one. “Any objections?” Trevor had asked the question, knowing that not a single person would make a movement. Not a single member can disagree, so Brian tells them “Gather our hands together, and make a pledge. A vow. Swear to this cause, and do not break it.” Everyone puts their right hand in as a response, now standing up next to the chair. “We devote us to this cause, and shall not fail to continue!” With that, the hands wave up into the air in a sign of friendship, determination, and hope.

Finally, Trevor looks around the area, staring at the eight other individuals. He is about to reveal a secret they had talked about before, knowing Brian’s probable chagrin. But he knows it is necessary, politely stating, “Oh, and Brian, before the meeting started, we theorized this would happen, so we need a leader. A council of ten won’t be effective in the future, so there really is no other choice, Brian. Weather you want to be or not, you are our leader, and shall lead us on our goal.” Brian then thanks Trevor, much to Trevor’s response. Everyone had been expecting some sort of resistance and had prepared proof, but Brian seems to have accepted the position with his smile shining in the bright sunlight. Of course, in reality he is a little worried, but they place his trust in them; he cannot fail now. The group now has a little chat, though Brian isolates Trevor to ask for his favor privately, “If you didn’t notice, my glove has a leak.” To show this, he simply extends his palms to show two wet hands, soaked in a slight red glow. “No problem,” Trevor laughs, as he places his hand on the gloves, causing them to glow. It takes a few seconds, but after the yellow glow subsides, Brian can feel slightly thicker devices covering his hands. They are thicker, but they seem just a little heavier. Silently, Brian thinks to himself “Ah, the magic of ‘Alchemy’. What would I do without him?”

Trevor is pleased at how he is now extending his palms, flips them over to the over side, and turns them into a fist. “They are now stronger than ever before, and I added a little something.” Brian undoes his fists, now staring at the palm side of his gloves, and sees a red star on both of them, surrounded by a circle. “That should make it so that you can access your powers without taking them off.” Again, Brian thanks Trevor, and he responds to Brian’s gratitude with “Don’t mention it…by the way, are your hands better, or worse?” “They are slightly better.” With this conversation ended, the two join the group, but just as they are about to get in, they hear a terrible roar, and that one becomes ten. Then a hundred. The number of voices then becomes too hard to track, and they see the Ultra Darmichrons. “They’re here!”

Part Two

“Revelations, Round One”

Julie is the most surprised at this, shouting above the voices “How come we couldn’t sense them?” David himself has no idea how they managed to get so close, but theorizes “They must have found a way to mask their movements!” With the rest of the group, Brian begins to get in, but immediately notices “Trev, we’re out of gas!” He is staring rather nastily at his friend, who is quite shocked by the sudden revelation. The gauge clearly reads empty, confirming this statement. Without gas, the car won’t start. And they had failed to retrieve any, an oversight that even Brian had missed. By now, some are already outside, including Brian, Julie, and David, readying them for the worst. “We had some before! There must have been a leek! It’ll take at least five minutes to fix!” Trevor shouts back, already under the car starting repairs. He knows where the gas tank is, so when he looks closely, he observes a large gaping hole where the gas should be. Somehow, he had failed to notice the leak before; something had prevented him from seeing the gas just leak. He curses at how he missed something this large, barely receiving Brian’s response. “You have four! That is, if we can hold them for that long!” Brian informs as he jumps forward, already activating his gloves and wielding his sword. “David, I need your assistance taking the fight to them, and the rest of you stay to help Trev with the repairs and defend the car.” Almost everyone accepts the order, bracing in defensive stance, with one exception. “Pacen, what are you doing?” “You trained with me in martial arts; you know I can help you! Come on, none of us girls have fought since you arrived except for Julie, and I simply can’t wait any longer!” Brian smiles at her bright enthusiasm, knowing she has a large fighting spirit within. “Alright, hurry! We have to take them out.”

The three jump on top of the school, as it provides the best platform for attacking the things they now deem ‘Uldarms’. The logic behind the name is quite simple…they are much stronger than regular Darmichrons, hence are Ultra, and Ultra Darmichrons compresses into Uldarms. Brian had been the first to use the name, at which Julie had put her had over her head, and shook her head in what seemed like a gesture of disgrace. She didn’t say anything at the time, but it is not hard to imagine what she was thinking about. That large shrug was not exactly that of approval, but the thought is pushed out of Brian’s mind with more low-pitched roars beginning to appear on all sides. Charging forward, Brian throws a ball of red energy at one, killing it instantly. In comparison to the main force, it is likely no more than a scout, so its death should grab hold of interest. “That ought to get their attention!” He happily declares, but David’s expression is grimmer. David is looking in a different direction over the school, somewhat at the forest and somewhat from the highway. Brian is shocked to see the look of fear in his eyes—from David?—and David shouts gravely “Too much of attention!” Brian then sees why—looking at where David had been staring—as at lest two hundred charge at them, looking to be rather nasty and more organized than normal Darmichrons. “Oops.” Brian whispers, as Pacen and David stare at him. “Oops?” David questions annoyed in a rather large tone. “Yea, oops.” Brian responds reluctantly, knowing that he probably shouldn’t have said that. “‘Oops’ doesn’t describe this!” David barks at Brian, as he is showing fear that Brian did not know David could feel. “Well, it’s too late to go back now!”

The three fight valiantly and let none through. The Uldarms are charging in organized ranks, so Brian concludes “They must have a leader! No normal Darmichron could be this organized; this is a tactic only someone with a much higher intelligence could devise. Let’s try and break through to see who it is!” David and Pacen agree with a nod of their heads and begin fighting full power. Pacen, at first, uses some basic Tae Kwon Do, but then picks up the speed and variety of the attacks. Soon, she delivers punishing blows and kicks from multiples styles at speeds even enhanced eyes cannot see. From a small glimpse of his eyes, Brian can almost see blue energy being emitted from her firsts, though stares at David for a second later. David fights with his claws and even bites a few Uldarms, but gets careless and is stabbed in the gut. Brian is a little worried about this, but David merely mutters “Ouch!” and continues to fight. Brian is rather puzzled and asks if he is alright, by which he grins, and laughs “Do you honestly think you can get rid of me that easily? This is nothing; I’ve had much worse!” The two smile at each other—managing to show their white teeth—before sharing a slight laugh and continuing fighting. Brian charges into a large bundle of the Uldarms, many avoiding him to the best of their ability. Despite this, Brian cuts down ten with a slash—taking out three—followed by rapid blasts of energy from his sword and hands. Brian, at this point, is surprised that most Uldarms are avoiding him, though such thoughts only get in his way. However, he soon finds out why.

He is forced to take his gloves off, as he has to fight with further strength. He takes one off by removing the middle finger part with a mighty pull, pockets the glove, and repeats with the other one. His hands have now been revealed to be fully healed, with the exception of the blood pouring out. With the gloves removed, he shoots more of his power at a group, though a few survive. He is too close to use his blade, so he pushes away an Uldarm with his unnatural strength, yet something is different…the blood from his hands is absorbed into the Uldarm and it dies. The Darmichron clenches its shoulder—in the exact spot Brian made contact—and lets out a cry. That kind of pain Brian knows he has only experienced once, as that is the pain of death. But unlike Brian, the Uldarm won’t be magically revived. The Uldarm in only a few seconds is on the ground—the group had leaped down into the Uldarms earlier to cause disarray—never to get up again. Brian is shocked for a second, staring at the now-black corpse contrasting the brown soil and asking “What just happened?” David is more than happy to let out an adequate reply of “It appears your blood is poisonous to Darmichrons, but not to us. This is most the useful tip, Brian, as we need to press every advantage we can.”

Brian smiles at this news and begins slashing and shooting with triple the ferocity, knowing that he can strike fear into the hearts of these normally heartless creatures. They had stayed away by instinct before, yet now, instinct would be complementary with emotions. Soon—not counting those that are in too small of shreds to be noticed or those burned to a crisp—a whole battlefield of Uldarms lies dead, yet they keep on coming. Brian continues fighting, however, the three can hear an evil laughter approaching. Brian tries his hardest to sense whatever it is that is making that noise—determining that it is no Darmichron nor human—but he can’t pinpoint it. In fact, Brian can no more decide which direction the voice is coming from than the rest can by ears. Whoever it is must be a complete master at movement, preventing a lock on by Brian. Suddenly, the three can see a figure revealing itself about three hundred feet in front of them, but he is hidden in a veil of shadows. Even if Brian could see the figure as if it was five feet away, he doubts that he’d be able to see the evil man—assuming that thing is a man—since the shadows are covering him unnaturally. In a cold, dark, evil voice, the figure declares “So these are the great fighters of the world? Ha! You are pathetic and are not even using your full power! You won’t last another minute!”

The taunting voice sends David into a further fury, though the Uldarms seem to be backing away as if by orders. However, they still attack when even a foot is taken towards the figure, so one can reach a rather simple conclusion. “You’re leading the Uldarms, aren’t you?” It didn’t need to be said, though Brian feels the need to talk to this figure. Anyway, every second he stalls is a second off of those four minutes. It couldn’t have been less than three in this battle, so they just have to hold out a little longer. “That is correct. Brian, I doubt you will live much longer, as you are using too much energy per kill…you have the potential to kill my soldiers with a fraction of what you use, but because you know not your own power, it’ll kill you. You three are a joke in comparison to me.” Brian would like to send that statement away or possibly let the rage of that statement get embedded in his mind forever, but neither can happen. The thought is embedded in his mind as a reminder of just how weak he is. ‘You three are a joke in comparison to me.’ Those words ring through his mind, destroying his morale. The figure is correct, as Brian knows he has yet to access a fraction of his power. Yet he had wasted almost all of his current power already and still, this is likely just another one of this man’s evil tests against the group. The very fact that he is a pawn not worthy of mentioning is a further blow, though Brian isn’t the only one affected. David lets his rage control him—exactly what the figure wants—by extending his claws further and leaps higher than Brian thought possible—obviously heading for the cloaked figure—but is struck down by a group of Uldarms. They don’t harm him severely—just puncturing the stomach again—but they pin him down, one holding him under its massive foot. David had healed from all his previous injuries, though the pain from his recent defeat shows rather clearly. “My, my, David…why do you fight like this? Perhaps I should kill you, or force you to show your true form. You know what I’m talking about all too well and are the only figure on their side here that can access full power, so I ask…why do you hold back?”

Brian stares at the wounded David, and sees the injuries heal at an unnaturally rapid rate. He forces the Uldarm off of him, ripping the leg off in the process. His hands covered with fresh blood, he leaps onto his feet and stabs the Uldarm in the head with his right hand, leaving a large gap. He then stares at Brian, giving him a look that is a bit of regret and other emotions that Brian cannot trace. With some hesitance, he begins to talk. “Brian, I am sorry I didn’t tell you, though you would find out eventually…you probably felt uneasy around me, and you should be…for what I am is that of a monster, more powerful than I’d like to admit. I try to limit myself from doing this, but I have no choice.” The voice reveals that David obviously hates what he is about to do, as it must have some side-effect that he would rather get rid of. Brian stares in complete horror as David transforms into the exact form of the first Darmichron he ever fought. The transformation is instant, the David that Brian had known being expanded and torn into this new form which he recognizes all too well. Every mark on his body—down to the scar on his forehead and shattered teeth—now stands before him in a perfect match. This had been why Brian had felt like he had seen this David before. This had been why Julie and he had felt so uneasy about David; his sister and his great powers combining this feeling to sense that someone who could be an enemy is amongst their ranks. “You thought you killed me, but I cannot die, even though I wish to. I was thirty for less than a week when this happened, not twenty-nine. I was the first Darmichron, a prototype. The first to be infected, and I was even at the hospital when this all happened. I became half-Darmichron, and lost control. That day was a full moon, and every full moon, I loose control. But until then, I can control this form well enough to kill any of these things!”

Brian is too shocked to even think about it; all he can do is watch as David single-handedly wipes out half the Uldarms in a berserk fury, ripping many in half. The body count rises, as this new Darmichron form dwarfs even the power of the Uldarms. The bloody massacre continues, Brian now too far away from combat to help. David had cut deeply into the enemy’s ranks, preventing Brian from reaching him in time if anything were to happen. This is a reckless move—something Brian thought that David would never do—and it is obvious his emotions are driving him to fight in his new form. Crushing the head of yet another, he then heads for the figure which suddenly vanishes in a dark smoke. More and more fall, leaving only about ten left. However, the figure just lets out an evil laugh as yet five more are gone. “Good; this is exactly what I had seen. Too bad you still have some control, David; I wish that you had truly lost it.” With those muttered words, the figure slowly begins to dissipate into an unknown location, so David cuts down the last that had stood before them. Somewhere back there, there are at least a dozen left, but they are too far away to be of concern. David lets out a cry of frustration with a taint of the voice Brian knows all too well, cursing at his slow speed.

Whoever it is that leads them, he is clever—a complete mastermind at the least—and likely planned the whole thing out. It does not take long for the Uldarms to retreat as well, as they disperse in every direction away from the three. David transforms back after getting over his failure, then extending his hand in an offer of renewed friendship. “I am not your enemy, as I hate Darmichrons more than you do.” David seems to keep his ‘tough-guy’ appearance, though his wavering limbs—especially his feet—tell Brian that this took more effort away that even Brian’s own powers do. Depending on how bad it is, he might not be able to move for days afterwards, though it is far more likely he will just be sore. “What about every full moon?” Brian asks as the three slowly move towards the car, taking the long way around the building. “I believe Nightshade will suppress my powers those days, preventing me from getting out of control. I managed to procure a rather healthy dose of the plant, so I should be good for well over two years. I’d be useless on those days, but at least I wouldn’t try to kill you.” “Alright. Come along, David. We can use you. You’re our friend, so don’t think you can get rid of us that easily!” The three there share a little laugh at how they had just achieved a major victory before they round the last corner and head back towards their car.

Just before leaving, Brian does ask Pacen when the two are relatively isolated “By the way, I know my martial arts…my trained eye managed to see what moves you were doing, and I only briefly recognized a few of them…where’d you learn those?” Pacen laughs at how she had managed to surprise Brian, responding with “Training. My power is complete mastery of martial arts, including a rock-hard body and spiritual drainers that were myths until two minutes ago. Many Uldarms died not from the blows, but a loss of spirit. You might have even seen the blue flowing from my fists, if you were lucky.” Brian is quite amazed by this, but decides to drive off without further conversation. He opens his door after pressing the handle, puts his leg up, follows with the rest of his body, and slams the door. “The further we are from this place, the better,” Brian mutters to himself, wishing for nothing more at the moment other than to be out of this area. Repairs went well, and the car starts flawlessly. The car drives southeast, destined for the desserts to follow. He knows that they will experience much hardship, but they must go on. “We’ll do just fine. We start here today on our great journey, for a fate that can only be good. Prepare yourself, everybody, for destiny.” With that simple little speech, the car speeds off over the worn roads at double the normal speed. His own words he somewhat doubts, though the fact that he hides it so well means that he feels a little relaxed. “We’ll come back here.”

Brian drives for a large period of time and the car follows signs of life. They stop very few times, and not a soul there is complaining about what they have already gone through. Remote little signs—occasionally even a campfire remain—drives then further than they would normally go, as Brian’s positive spirit is inspiration to the rest of them. The desert can not be that far, not after driving all that distance and not finding any significant signs of life. Sure, an occasional campfire would be found, but nothing that is hard evidence of survival. “I’m worried Brian…it has been a while since we have seen any but the ten of us. We ten couldn’t have been the only survivors!” Julie converses as Brian is driving, but then Brian catches a glimpse of the looks on all members of the party excluding Julie and he. They all look down in shame, David included. Something had happened that week which Brian was not at the school some month and a quarter ago. “You know of some more?” Brian asks as he turns his head around briefly to catch Trevor’s full face. “Knew.” Trevor sadly states, as he sheds a single tear. He temporarily looks down at the ground, clenching his fists in his seat at this kind of pain. Whatever had happened, it had scarred Trevor emotionally at a very deep level. That kind of pain Brain recognizes, as it is a pain that he himself had almost touched. Yet—despite the fact that Brian had felt more pain than any others in most situations—Trevor’s pain seems even greater than his.

“To start with, before you came, there were forty survivors at the school, David not amongst them. We held out for a while, but…” Brian sees that Trevor is clearly in pain, so he can’t ask him to continue. Trevor pushes it aside with a shake of his head, and continues anyway “Ten left us, leaving just thirty. Eight headed southeast—the way we have traveled—but two went northwest…where you came from. By the fact that you did not encounter them, we can assume they perished. Another twelve disappeared, leaving eighteen of us.” The part about disappearing seems particularly to affect Trevor, as he must have seen some close friends—no, more than that—disappear for good. However, the part about eighteen is also clearly painful, as Brian knows the end number all to well. “Eleven of us…were killed in that time, fighting desperately for their lives against the armies we faced. Only us—the strongest seven—survived this tragedy and only David joined us. We buried what was left of our friend’s corpses—many had already been chewed to pieces by the Darms—in the ravine next to the school. I believe you know the story from there. We lost good friends, and probably will never see them again.” Julie is sitting next to Trevor and comforts him, though both slightly blush at her method. What she did is unknown, since no one had paid any attention, though it obviously was something a little embarrassing.

However, she seems to have somewhat succeeded, or at least, distracted Trevor from the original topic. Brian then actually smiles and replies “There’s still hope then…they could be alive, and maybe are just ahead of us. Eight this way and twelve that disappeared; that is hope enough. We may yet meet someone close to us again, and I know you may get to see your sister again.” Trevor is dumbfounded by this statement because he had never once—in all the years he had known Brian—even mentioned his sister. How could Brian even tell that he had a sister? He needs not to ask the question for Brian to give an answer. “I can tell by the way you talked that she was amongst those that disappeared.” Trevor shows his signs of sadness, but pushes them aside to try and smile “You’re right. She’ll see me again.” However, Trevor is thinking about “Though the condition I find her in is what worries me.”

Driving, they ignore the topic of Uldarms, as they, hopefully, are miles behind. Of course, some are slightly more anxious than others, and the fact that after traveling for so long, yet they still have not reached any location of significant meaning, is beginning to destroy them. Trevor—one of the best optimists in the group—seems to be becoming even more of a pessimist, while David has actually turned around to be somewhat of an optimist. At least all changes they experience aren’t bad; the fact that David has changed his original ways is comforting enough. However, thoughts of how they still have failed plague their mind. Nor had they improved their powers, so the group’s confidence in their abilities is low. And on top of that, the group fears that they may be the only people alive, and Brian is the only one pushing such thoughts aside. However, inside, Brian has more doubt that any of his friends, but he had learned to control it quite some time ago. Hope needs some sort of encouragement, but Dallas is actually the only one who seems to feel confident that someone is alive. Why he and not even the best optimists is a mystery; if it is because of the favor Brian asked of him, he surely would have said something. However, what he is hiding is his trump card: a last resort for hope to be used after time defeats them. “It’s been nearly two months, yet we haven’t gotten to the desert yet,” Trevor sadly and angrily comments, and receives a rather serious response from David “This terrain makes it rather hard.”

He is looking right at Trevor, who seems to be just staring out the window at the sights that are beginning—but still are not completely, like originally hoped—to look like the desert they seek. It was decided that this path would be best, considering it follows major roads, tints of survival do exist, and it is the most direct route Brian can find. It is all too true that their journey is difficult…they have to cross two mountain ranges, survive instant changes in weather, and find a route through the old roads falling apart. With no humans around, nothing controls the weather or repairs the roads, so when the group encounters obstacles, it takes time to overcome them. Too much time for any member’s comfort. “At this rate, it’ll be ten years before we can reach our goal!” “Don’t worry, something will speed us up.” Brian comforts, as he stops the car for everyone to stretch their legs.

At Brian’s request, a tenth seat was added, so now everyone can stay inside the car, where it is either air-conditioned or heated, depending on the layout of the land. Already, they had gone through some mini-deserts and a few blizzards, so Trevor had again made modifications to the engine to withstand both for a period long enough to pass through. “We still haven’t left Washington, so how do we plan to get to the East Coast?” Brian sighs at Trevor’s negative response, but he is obviously agitated, so he mutters “We’ll find a way, Trev. We’ll find a way.” Julie has yet again taken to comforting Trevor, ignored once again. Whatever she does, it distracts him enough not to notice other things, weather it is from embarrassment of comfort still unclear. Brian stops the car at a location containing the ruins of a town—not even a school or hospital standing—deciding to let the group out for a while. He knows all too well that enough travel time makes your legs feel numb, so rest helps a little. The group is managing on their rations rather well; they have paced the amount they eat well. Once the group has stretched their legs, Brian calls them back in once again, determined not to stop again until they escape Washington’s claws. The driving continues and they manage to navigate outside the state of Washington, being just that much closer to the great dessert of the United States. But this eats away even more time and if Trevor wasn’t so busy with repairs, he would likely go insane from the pressure and sheer boredom that now lies over the whole group. Roles have turned, as Trevor now seems to waver between optimism and pessimism, Dallas has gone from neutral to optimism, Julie maintains sli8ght optimism, though is loosing some strength, David keeps Trevor from falling apart almost as much as Julie, and Brian comforts the whole group. Compared to when this started, not a single soul has not been transformed. As more and more time is passed, the group is beginning to take on recognizable features; they are far from the group that could best be described as lowly kids from earlier.

“Brian, it has been three months to the day since this all started.” Julie observes, as she carries a sentimental calendar. In those months, many members had celebrated an extra year on their life and Brian’s would be next, on July 23rd, two months from now. The car finally has reached the desert, but Trevor has stopped it in the worry of the heat killing the car. He did not have to do much convincing; Brian could tell from his voice that this was a serious threat, not some pessimism. “She wasn’t built for this kind of heat, Brian. At least not for the distance we wish to drive her.” Trevor again reminds Brian as he ponders the options. “We’ve found ways before, so we’ll just improvise again here.” The whole group is again miserable, but the fact that they in one month over doubled the distance they had traveled brings some morale back into their hearts. Though still, the heat is beginning to devastate them. Looking forward 200 feet, Brian notices a little blip in the distance, but the heat waves block out any kind of visual, so he suddenly starts the engine and then moves 180 feet, just to make sure he can see what is revealed to be a truck.

Trevor is clearly puzzled by this, and again worries about how the car could fail, but when Brian explains how he saw something, it calms Trevor down a bit. Trevor had not been the only one wondering, however, as the rest of the group was just as mystified with Julie being the exception. She knows all too well this feeling inside of her and with Brian, it is only a little weaker. “Trev, can you feel it?” Brian stares back at Trevor during the brief drive, at which—with some concentration—Trevor feels it as well. His abilities to sense must have been dampened with time, but he still is quite high in comparison to others. Once the car is again at a stop, Brian stares forth and notices someone standing over by the truck. The truck is a nice little red pickup truck, and the license plate on the car is that clearly of Washington. The figure nearby the truck is holding a bunch of electronics, storing about ten times that number on the back of the truck, shielded from direct sunlight. When Brian stares a little closer, his eyes widen with happy shock, as he declares “Andy!”

Trevor asks how Brian knows him, at which Brian simply answers “A very good friend of mine; he was a master programmer before this all happened.” When Brian places his foot on the ground, steps outside the truck, and walks towards his old friend, once closer, he can hear what Andy is blabbing about. From the past, Brian knows just how talkative he can be; Brian was no better. In fact, almost every member of the younger nine talked a lot in comparison to others, so it is no surprise to see him do it yet again, though this time to himself. Andy rubbing his very short blond hair mumbles “Now how do I cross the desert with all these electronics? I’ve been thinking about it, yet still, the answer eludes me. I may be good, but I need help.” His yellow eyes are so intent on the task that Brian could probably be right behind him and Andy would not notice. His round-cut t-shirt is one that Brian had seen often; one that had a joke about programming on the front. Brian notices that Andy himself is nearly unchanged and when he finally gets close enough, his reflection appears in the truck’s shining paintjob. Obviously, Andy had chosen his vehicle well, taking such care over it that Trevor is impressed. Even David—who cares nothing about the look of things around him—is impressed with just how well-kept this truck is.

Turning around, Andy stares at Brian with his yellow eyes and welcomes the driver of the giant suburban. “What took you so long? I had expected survivors to catch up with me a month ago.” “The real question is how did you beat us here?” Brian responds as the two shake hands and smile with a slight laugh at being reunited. The grip is firm and Brian can feel the heat being emitted from Andy, hinting he has been around the desert for a little too long. “One travels faster than ten.” The two share a few laughs, and have a short conversation of old electronics, especially in the field of gaming. Trevor comes in, and immediately asks “Normally, I can tell what someone’s power is, but for you, I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Trevor’s power has been getting weaker in that sense; he hopes that it is because his normal powers are getting stronger. Yet somehow, Andy has hidden his own power. Andy responds with a little shock on his face “Oh, like you, I’m a master of technology, but I specialize in electronics, a fact Brian knows all too well.” Trevor is grinning, as he had yet to match someone with a similar power. This might also explain why he couldn’t sense his powers; similar powers can be hard to distinguish from your own.

“Can we talk about it?” “Sure, but I was wondering why you didn’t discover a little fact that I did.” Both Trevor and Brian lean in, as he continues a little louder “Our powers are directly related with what we were doing, learning, or planning to do…Julie was in the Environmental School and was planning to be a veterinarian, so I can tell her power is over nature from this. Your friend was a good martial artist, since she was raised by those of similar interests, and now is a complete master. Dallas was planning to travel the world, and he’s a teleporter. And Trevor was going to be a mechanic, so now is a master of technology and mechanics.” This makes sense to Brian, but makes him wonder what his power is. “What could I be then? I have no specialty; I merely lead them because there is no other. My abilities are limited, and yet I somehow have managed to earn fear of Darmichrons. What am I exactly?”

Since Trevor and Andy seem to converse so well, Brian had already heard everything he wished to from Andy, and since he wishes to ponder a thought or two, He leaves the two to converse for a while. He slowly walks back to the car, making sure to go at a speed slow enough not to get there too quickly. “We have been fooling ourselves too long now. We need to hone our abilities, and prepare for the worst. We need to move faster. We need to do so many things, and I have to figure out a way to get across the desert before the Uldarms swarm us. We have avoided the subject, yet I know they are there. For some reason, I can feel them even when Julie cannot. Her powers outgrow even mine there, so why I know they are not far behind remains a mystery. Something is going on here, and I need to find out what.”

(To be continued)

Post #: 4
7/10/2008 15:35:54   

Episode 4

“Desert Travel”

Brian finally comes up with an answer, calling the group together to explain his little plan. This sudden revelation again surprises the group, yet again showing them his sharp wit. “Trev, Andy, would it be possible to air-condition the truck to make it so that it can support three people including you two and the electronics?” Both look at each other, thinking for a moment. A short chat later, they are both agreeing, “We’ve thought about it and it could work. If we just make a few modifications, it should be easy.” His answer in hand, Brian smirks and continues, “Now, could you modify the suburban so that it can maintain itself? We still need her, so it is imperative that she does not quit on us.”

Again, the two nod, but Trevor warns “However, to do so would mean that there would be no air-conditioning.” A few members of the party are looking at each other with dismay; no air conditioning means that all of them would have to go in the heat. Brian seems unfazed by this as he merely smiles; he reveals the plan. “Then I have a plan. We travel mostly on foot. I travel in the suburban—most likely warmer than outside—and you two travel in the truck and the one who is in the worst condition rests in the truck with you until someone else is worse. Unfortunately, that leaves seven people at any given time stuck outside. But it is a way across and may just get us through, if we move rapidly enough. However, I believe we need something that the rest of us can travel on. If we are willing to go slow enough, I am thinking perhaps we can use some sort of dragging method, pulling our supplies that can be dragged in the heat on some sled of some type. If some people can manage to stay on whatever sleds we make, they can ride there as well.” Taking a look at Jack, he asks “Jack, you have been practicing, haven’t you? We may need you to lend speed where needed. And if we wish to get through with any considerable speed, we’ll need that often.” Now looking at the whole group, he finishes with “Can it be done?”

The whole group stares at Brian, then at each other. Andy gives them hope, as he is only the eleventh survivor they have found. It is revealed that he left when this started, meaning still eight remain to be found. And if he survived, others must have as well. Wills restored, they redirect their stares yet again towards Brian, all agreeing that the plan may be possible. “Alright, then. Trev, Andy, ask for any help you need before we start. I estimate that a good month will pass before we reach the other side, at least 1.5 times that if we encounter trouble.” With those words, everyone begins working on some part of the plan, many preparing the supplies for transport. While most hate to think of encountering trouble, the statement makes them think about danger again, so they work rapidly.

Though they travel through the desert, they will still be traveling on a road, but the ‘road’ is more of flat dirt spanning the distance of this great land. It probably was once a highway, yet the group knows from driving to reach this far that roads have failed everywhere and that civilization is lucky to exist at all. The desert is the worst they can experience climate-wise; not even the arctic comes close. If they pass through here, they have passed the worst—with the possible exceptions of the African and Australian lands—that the new nature of the world has to offer, meaning the worst left would be human in nature.

Dallas pants from the heat, his body moving slowly. He had donated his sled to another member of the group, so he is stuck walking. His breath is heavy; the panting shows he has been physically exhausted. His sweat covers his whole body, the cooling liquid not helping much. The itching of his one source of coolant is annoying, but he knows that heat stroke would set in without the sweat. The smell is worse than the Sarciller. His nose can barely stand it, so he breathes through his mouth. His clothes weigh him down. He is still wearing a blue T-shirt, poor for dessert weather. His baseball cap is his only shade, but it fails to prevent the rays from the sun piercing into his forehead with searing heat. He can hear the harsh winds whistling around him. His eyes are slightly blurred from the heat, further blinded by the sun. Again, his cap allows him to see slightly better, thought not nearly enough. Trying his best to see clearly, he observes the group moving around.

Christa is the one currently in the car with Trevor and Andy. She had practically passed out from the heat, yet now Dallas wishes he had. David seems to be doing fine, Julie is tolerating it, Jack is working it off with running—though how that helps astounds him—Fred is bearing it, Pacen is surviving, and Monica seems to even be enjoying it! Yet he is suffering from the heat, only moving on because he knows something that he failed to mention to Brian, despite specific instructions. “Note to self: Never travel in the desert again.” While he had meant to have not said that to anyone but himself, Monica actually seems to hear it, laughing and asking “What? Is it that bad?” Dallas stares at her rather harshly, muttering “Let’s just say I will be more than happy when we get our next chance to get water.” The whole group traveling on foot or sleds laugh at this comment, since Dallas was supposedly rather adoptive to weather. However, coming from a relatively cold, damp climate, a warm, dry climate would knock most people out if the change was instant.

“I wish I could sit down in the car and rest for a while,” Dallas mutters with a sigh, his arms drooping down and his head bowed. This time, it is Brian who overhears, shouting “You don’t want to be in here; trust me on that! The temperature must be at least ten, if not more, degrees warmer in here!” Dallas shrugs at this statement; he simply should not be here. “It might be preferable to this heat,” he shouts back, continuing “Since we are two weeks in. We’ve been here for a long time, Brian, and these conditions are brutal. Our supplies are two thirds of what they were before, so we better be at least a third of the way through.” The whole group nods at this statement, Brian briefly ignoring the road to take out a salvaged map. “Well, according to this map…there should be large rocks and giant dessert plumes a third of the way through.” Everyone hearing that comment laughs; the map has some added artistic detail that is not entirely accurate. “But seriously, now. I have been keeping track of mile after mile, so by the old estimates, we are half-way through. But keep in mind; the desert is larger now than it was when this map was made. We should make it, but we probably should restock at the nearest source of water.”

As usual, this brings some further morale to them. The thought of more water causes Dallas’s tongue to moisturize again, as it had been parched enough to be like sandpaper. While they regularly stop for water breaks, the rationing is making the members a little sick of these conditions, since the water goes almost immediately to protecting their bodies from heat. Any excuse they can get to raise morale is taken; it gets extremely depressing on several occasions. Entertainment had become a must; when stopped, card games and other such forms of gaming are played to death. Furthering their stroke of good luck, they still have yet to encounter a Darmichron attack.

Dallas soon after is now in the truck, Christa having recovered enough to walk. Julie walks ahead to be near the window of the Suburban, informing Brian, “So—at this rate—Brian, your birthday gift will be getting out of the desert.” Brian thinks about it and realizes that his birthday is actually within the week, though he smiles at the thought. He thinks to himself about the truth in that statement, but then the flaws come to mind. He doesn’t say it—bad for morale—but the thought of truth is a necessary one. “However, our current pace spells out that it’ll take longer than that.”

‘Longer than that’ will only change if something happens, so he is half considering faking an Uldarm raid. But it would not do so well; it would just anger the whole group, who would blame him for personal gain. Not to mention, the speed gained would be minimal; they are traveling near their current maximum already. Jack has been making routine checks, scouting ahead then rushing behind to watch for threats ahead and behind, so he could stop the whole thing anyway. Jack had long-since stopped giving speed to the group; their pace wouldn’t change that much. The only people capable of escaping at a more rapid pace would be those in the truck. Even so, the truck with its modifications would almost never manage to outrun a pursuer. ‘Luck’—if you can call it that—strikes again; he doesn’t have to fake it. Jack does come running in, panting and yelling “Attack!” He needs not say more. There’s nothing to attack, so the attack must be one he’s warning them of and, to them, there is only one thing that could attack them. The fact that he had come from behind just confirms this, so Brian shouts, “Pick up the pace, people! We need to move and we need to move now!”

The group frantically prepares themselves; the sleds salvaged and transmuted by Trevor are loaded up onto the carrier of the car and the supplies shoved in the back. Half of the group loads into the Suburban, ignoring the heat. Now, the whole group is escaping with enhanced speed—Jack lending a hand—at roughly 40 miles an hour. However, Uldarms can go double that, so something needs to be done. The cars can’t go any faster without breaking down in the heat, so the group is readying themselves for a fight—something they are not likely equipped to handle. The radios of both cars originally used to pick up the AM and FM signals to listen to were modified by Trevor to be two-way signals to the cars, communication for the first time so far becoming a necessity. With this device in hand, Brian shouts “Trev, can the engines handle 90 mile stress fully loaded in this heat?” Trev simply shakes his head, not needing to explain why not. “Well, this is your field; find a way to do it or we’re toast!” The whole group looks down and sighs at Brian’s bad pun, but it is rather serious. If they stop, the Uldarms attack. If they manage to survive, their cars will most likely be damaged beyond repair. If their cars are damaged beyond repair, that means going at a slower than a snail pace out of the dessert, carrying their supplies. It would be impossible even for them; the heat would eventually kill them if dehydration would not.

The two cars go window-to-window and Trevor opens the right window of the truck. Brian already has the left window of his open, so with the two cars level, the risky task is about to be performed. Their proximity makes this task easier, but easier still translates to hard and near-impossible. Trevor gets half-way out of the truck, gulping at the sight before him. He nervously asks for help, so Julie lends a hand and wraps some makeshift vines around the cars. The wind blows through Trevor’s face, takes away his breath, and worst of all: limits his vision. He can barely see, but this will have to do. He asks for Andy to pull forward a bit, the final position of the cars taken. The final positioning complete, Trevor jumps onto the suburban, right on top of the hood. He instantly flies toward the windshield, barely managing to restore his foothold with a little aid from his shoes, covered in spikes he just made. It is only a manner of time before they experience déjà vu all over again. Julie lends a hand by strapping a vine-line from the vines wrapping around the cars around Trevor’s waist, now allowing him to move without the fear of falling to his death. The work will be hard; he must work with the hood very low while he’s on it and still allow Brian to drive.

Desperate, Trevor tries everything he knows, nothing working. Finally, he improvises with his powers, hoping it’ll work. “Jump on, people!” Through a series of maneuvers, the group takes their usual seats in the suburban, though Jack takes a place in the truck along with Andy. “Must go faster, must go faster, and must go faster…” Brian mutters as he puts the accelerator to the floor. Julie can’t help but bring a grin up; she knows what that is a reference to. Within an hour, the Uldarms are again behind them. Trevor looks exhausted, yet keeps on channeling his strength. Brian orders over the radio, “Andy, we should keep this speed for about two hours; that should get us well out of the desert.” However, Trevor informs Brian sadly, “Sorry, Brian, but this is an active drain on my powers. I—from this distance in my seat—have to constantly shift the parts inside to not fail; that will drain my energy within half an hour.” The panting that Trevor is making reveals the truth in this; his body seems extremely weak and his mind distracted. His eyes look a little tired, so Trevor closes them. It is becoming painfully obvious that half an hour would be too long for him, despite what he says. “Alright, Trevor, maintain it for as long as possible before we slow down; half an hour will be enough to leave the Darmichrons behind.”

Trevor taxes his powers for 45 minutes, Julie managing to lend some strength. About fifteen minutes after Brian’s order, Julie just learned through a desperate experiment that her powers of healing don’t just apply to physical wounds; she can heal powers as well. However, this kind of healing drains three times as much of her strength. Likewise, she became just as drained as Trevor not long after, the two eventually failing. After that time, the two are transferred to the truck and allowed to sleep. “You two earned it,” Brian mutters as he closes the door and walks to his own car. “Alright, we’re going to be resting for a while before we start again; even with just 45 minutes, we should be out of the desert in three days.” The group again nods, happy that they are getting so close. With this boost, they are still at a third of their supplies, days away from exiting, and at least a week behind the Darmichrons.

Brian drives throughout the night, already haven taken the precaution of storing the heat in the car. Hot becomes cold, so now he’ll just have to wait. He had taken a vine-line and tied it to both cars, so now he tows the truck while Andy sleeps. The rest of the company is asleep in the car, now a comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The car still moves at a meager 10 miles an hour—fully loaded and with a truck in tow, that is the maximum he can do—but this is where he gets his estimates from. If he can drive for a solid 24 hours, then it will take a much lessened margin of time to reach the end of the cursed desert. He—with nothing better to do—looks through the now-closed windows to observe the dark blue and black sky above. The moon is a crescent, almost completely on the left. Looking to the stars, he recognizes some constellations, but the positioning of the stars is too different from what he is used to. One thing he can clearly see, however, is the little dipper, which he had named ‘the kite’ when he was younger. Looking at it, he realizes the pain that is now being forced into his body; both the past and the kite seem to bother him. The diamond in the sky is followed by the string, a sight to see before the Disease happened. However, Brian just wishes to look away, though something keeps his eyes locked on there.

In the morning, the group begins to wake and another shifting of arrangement is made; Trevor, Julie, and Andy are still in the truck, the car is set for the heat again—storing the last of the Desert’s cold temperatures—the group is on foot, and Brian is still driving. He had often pulled all-nighters before when he wanted something done, and with the Sarciller as a boost, not a tint of tiredness is being shown. “Trevor, I don’t suppose you can do that again today, can you?”

“Not unless they were right on us, Brian; I lack the motivation.” The two laugh over the radio, both cars now driving at a nice 30 miles an hour. When the cars come to a stop for a short break, Brian gets out of the car to ask Andy a few questions. When the rest of the group is drinking the water near the suburban, he walks up to the driver’s side of the truck and asks Andy to step out. Andy complies with this request, both walking to the back of the truck. “Andy, something’s been on my mind for a while since I met you.”


“You left when this started, right? Your power has to do with technology, so how did you manage to elude Darmichrons?”

“Simple, actually. I built a Darmichron radar. It helped me get through a good portion of the time, but unfortunately, it quit working shortly before I met you. My actual powers of sensing are zero, so I needed that to stay alive. I’m glad I stumbled upon you, because I doubt I could have repaired it in the heat.”

“I’m also wondering: did you drive along the highway?”

“Yea, I did. I had to stop once at—”

“The school?”

“I needed the supplies. How’d you guess?”

“We were there too. But one other thing: when we were there, we were practically overrun by the Darms. I’m curious…did you encounter similar problems?”

“Of course I did. I was surrounded with almost no way out. It is fortunate that I had been toying with a Darmichron repellent and managed to tweak it enough to work. It worked like a charm and scared them off, allowing me through. But—like most of my devices—it quit ten minutes later. Shame; I had been hoping to use it again.”

“Who knows? With Trev, you could very well be able to repair both. Thanks for the answers. It does explain a few things. Though I do want to ask one last thing…were there any signs someone had come even before you?”

Andy sadly shakes his head, muttering, “Sorry, Brian. If there were any signs, they were too well-hidden for me to detect. I wish I could be more help with that, but I was more focused on surviving myself than looking for other survivors.”

Brian comforts Andy by putting his hand on Andy’s shoulder, replying “It’s alright, Andy. We all were trying to survive at one time. I’ve heard from others that most of us at a time were so focused or survival, they did not think twice about helping those around them. You know, I think even now, we’re all being slightly driven by motivations that we do not know. Why do we choose the roads we do, why do we set the course we do, and so on. So you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Andy looks up, seeing Brian smile. As usual, his words are comforting, putting Andy’s mind at ease. “Yea, I guess you’re right.”

“Oh, and Andy, I might ask for a request: do you have a working computer?”

“Wouldn’t be much of an electronics expert if I didn’t.”

“Does it have a printer?”

“Paper won’t last long out here, but I can have whatever you want printed out sealed for protection.”

“Well, then, can I borrow it for something?”

“Sure; be my guest.”

Brian borrows Andy’s laptop, quickly typing something up. A few minutes later, he prints it and seals it up, protecting it from the elements. Brian hands it to Andy, allowing him to look at it. “So, what do you think?”

“It’s…good. I don’t have much else to say about it. I never knew you were a poet, Brian.”

“I’m really not that much of one, but thanks. I hope that this poem will give us hope when we need it the most.”

“I’m sure it will. By the way, your estimate for when we’ll get out…do you know how inconsistent it is?”

“Of course I do. Honestly, I don’t have much of a clue. However, I believe we’ll be going much faster.”

“You were driving last night to speed us up, weren’t you?”

“Yea, I was. Thanks, Andy. For everything.”

“And thank you, too, Brian, for everything you’ve done for me.”

Their conversation over, Brian folds up the paper and puts it in his left pocket, then proceeding to tell the others, “Okay, we should be moving soon. All aboard the…”

Brian is cut off mid-sentence by Julie, yelling, “Brian, don’t make a pun!”

The group laughs at this, then taking their positions. The group continues for the rest of the day, stopping for the night to rest again. However, David is not sleeping this time; he is wide awake and watching Brian prepare to drive through the night. While he has no way of definitely knowing that Brian was driving last night, he is fairly certain of it by his resting patterns last night and by the fact that Brian seems a little tired. He looks at Brian from his position, looking at the way the car handles. He had been observing the controls for quite some time, memorizing every detail. The car is difficult to control for anyone without experience, one of the reasons Brian had driven originally. The other reason is the fact that no other member is willing to drive in the heat of the dessert when it is cooler outside. Not to mention, half the group wasn’t old enough to legally learn to drive when the Sarciller hit. However, David is immune to all of these now.

“Brian, rest. You are no longer the only one who knows how to drive her; I am a quick learner. I studied an old manual in the glove compartment and I have watched you drive. If there’s an emergency, I’ll just let you take the helm.” Brian stares back at David, reluctant to give up the controls. However, his eyes begin to tire, so he briefly stops the car and allows David to take over. David is—yet again—right. His last instructions are rather clear; in four hours, David is to wake him so he can take over again.

Four hours later, he again takes the helm and drives on, fully refreshed. The next day, the group is filled with joy as they see that the end of the dessert should come soon. While they still have at least a day and night of driving left to do, signs are showing; the climate is changing to be cooler during the day and warmer during the night, the moisture is becoming noticeable, and there are more signs of life. Morale is extremely high as the group heads down the road. However, a familiar roar sounds from behind; the Darmichrons are back. And then the roar comes from their left and finally in front of them. The Darmichrons had been waiting, and now surround the group.

“Motivated, Trev?” Brian asks with a laugh, watching as Trevor takes his position in the Suburban along with Julie.

“Oh, yea. But where do we go?”

To the whole group’s amazement, Dallas answers the call with, “Have you noticed how they are approaching from three directions only? I suggest we veer south. Southeast, towards New Orleans. It’s a while—probably two days—even at high speeds, but it will be a nice change of scenery. The water there may make a nice wall, so we may be able to stay in there for quite a while, repelling the Darmichrons until we’re ready to depart again. It’s a major city as well, so who knows? We could find someone there. And quite frankly, I need the water.”

Brian agrees with the plan, asking a simple “Any objections?” With nothing but silence following, Brian smiles and declares, “Off to New Orleans it is, full speed ahea…no, slightly to the right!”
Post #: 5
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All Forums >> [Gaming Community] >> [Legends and Lore] >> Writers of Lore >> [The Bookshelves] >> Other Creative Prose >> Epidemic|Disease
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