ICON Outer Garden

Tiko

Demon Goat
Administrator
as written by Azrican

Lo Belselva, RKHA
173 kilometers from Picculasa, Great Forest Territory


Capitaine Roland Cousineau rose from a squat, tossing the charred piece of wood back into smoldering remains of a camp fire as the Razoran infantrymen milled about the ruined trapping camp. A few dead caribou hung from wooden splits, some still bearing the knives in their side before whoever was in the process of skinning and preparing the precious meat was interrupted. By what, the Captain could only assume as he studied the ground and followed another RKHA soldier as he carried a stack of hunting rifles the trappers seemed to have abandoned. His eyes went from every upturned leaf and muddy boot print, every discarded pelt jacket and upturning of dirt where it seemed a struggle had taken place, or a body had fallen.

His path through the camp brought him directly to Lieutenant Aglae Giroux, directing a fireteam of soldiers up the path with their machineguns and rifles to search for any possible survivors or, at best, a body. The imposing woman chewed at the end of a cigar, and one hand gripped tightly at the officer’s revolver she held at her hip. Captain Cousineau pulled the officer’s cap from his stub-cut head, a sigh rushing through grit teeth as he ran a muddy palm over his head.

Combien de morts, vous pensez?” He asked in Salian, watching the gruff woman count on one hand for a second until she replied.

Grande fete de la chasse, at least twenty or twenty five men. It couldn’t have been a bete, nothing from this planet could catch so many men off guard.” Aglae replied, pulling the cigar from her mouth to speak while a pall of smoke rose from her nostrils. Cousineau chewed at his lip trying to keep back a curse, fixing the cap over his head once again.

“We’ll have to call back to Arator to get a registry for the hunting party … wonder what they were after.” Cousineau replied, kneeling down as his eyes caught the glint of a spent brass casing and he plucked it from the mire.

“This deep into the Great Forest? Peut-etre quelque chose. At best they must’ve been nearing the end of their supplies, those caribou were freshly killed … maybe just a morning before whatever happened here.” The Lieutenant replied, standing with her CO in silence for another few moments as they scanned the camp. When she spotted a pair of Amerians trying to pry open a chest buried in the mud, a piece of wire could be heard snapping from pressure and she pointed with one finger before letting out a short whistle.

Vous deux, cabots muets! Make sure that thing isn’t booby trapped God dammit!”

The Lieutenant quickly struck off to berate the two infantrymen, who had dove away from the cache just as quickly as they had begun trying to force it open. Roland on the other hand set off back towards the center of the camp to try and find the platoon radioman, and not only make contact with the rest of the company but also send a message back to the Central Army Headquarters in Arator.

He found Specialist Wessel Alerda sitting on a dead horse, still tied to its wagon full of furs and lumber. From what the platoon found there were three wagons in total, this one being the only that hadn’t been entirely looted: it appeared that the wagon carrying most of their hunting weapons and ammunition was most severely hit, besides only a few lumps of meat it seemed the beast towing it had been literally ripped to shreds.

Specialiste, word from Western Command?” He inquired, shifting the FS-6 off to his side and putting one foot atop the dead beast’s neck, unwittingly causing a few blotches of thick blood to pump from one of the bullet wounds lining the cob’s lifeless form.

“No Capitaine, for now at least. We're ready to broadcast back to GFS Base though." He said, gnawing at a piece of jerky with one hand as the other fetched the wired telephone attached at his side. After he offered it to Captain Cousineau, Alerda reached over his shoulder to extend the radio antennae from the large quantum array mounted on his back. "You'll be on VHF-two hundred-two-zero-one monsieur, le Invictus may be on QRF or exfil."

____

A single bulb hung from the ceiling of a damp cellar, or what may only seem like one from the chilling air of the room and the earthy musk that dominated it. The noises of a city up above, perhaps more than an entire story, were only fleeting sounds and rumbles as vehicles rolled upon the streets overhead: occasionally, the bulb might only twist and bob on its wire softly. When it did, the light fractured and jarred left and right, illuminating long streaks of dark crimson and a pair of white, softly twitching hands tied to the table with a pair of zip ties.

The soft, choppy breathing that came from the man was accompanied only by the sound of smoke rushing through another’s nostrils. The light barely ever twisted enough to show more than the other’s hands, a cigarette perched neatly between his index and middle finger as the figure simply waited across the room for a moment: the man’s shivering often set the table rocking, it was slanted on one uneven leg, and only further added to the soft noises that managed to penetrate so deep.

The man continued shivering quietly, his bindings making a plastic scratching sound as he tried to lift one hand towards his battered, bruised skull. His fingernails were split, soft fleshy patches gleaming in the hard light where they had been removed completely: the zip ties kept him from barely lifting his smeared and grimy hands off the table. His face contorted, mind locked in the struggle of how he had ended up here: why he had ended up here in a cellar, bound to a table and beaten. Cracked lips pulled over yellow and sickly teeth, like he was trying to speak.

“You want to know the bad thing about us, about our little ‘Sovereign’ mentality?” The man across from him spoke before he could even utter a short, defeated whimper. The first few glimmering lines of a tear began to streak beside his eyes, the voice causing a visible discomfort to the man as he tried to rock back and forth in the rickety chair.

His ankles were bound too, small puddles of blood circling about the front legs of the chair as he struggled fruitlessly and then returned to a pathetic slouch. Spittle and blood dropped onto the table as he quietly hunched over it.

The man that spoke finally stepped forward into the light, gnarled and white knuckles attached to pale, scarred forearms. His face finally revealed, gruff and stubbled features covered in soft white hairs were accentuated by milky white eyes. He tapped at the end of his cigarette, a patch of hot ash falling onto a speck of blood and producing a quiet scorching noise. Smoke wisped up from the table and joined a thin layer hanging towards the ceiling of the room. “We think the simple fact that we, as a species, have the gift of free will invalidates all other realities of the universe … “ He continued, words following soft steps until he reached the table. There was no other chair opposite the man before him, and he remained standing.

“Right and wrong, good and evil, we blind ourselves to these simplicities and think, ‘I’ve been given a soul … these things can’t mean anything to me’.”

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t -- “ The man simply repeated endlessly, no sort of guilt or repentance in his voice though. The figure across from him continued to stand silently, tolerating his cyclical statement for a few more seconds until he reached out and planted the burning end of the cigarette squarely on top of the man’s hands.

He let out a boisterous scream, displaying a human capacity that had been evading the other across from him for the past several hours. It felt like it had been several hours at least, time was a fickle thing for his kind. Their kind, he corrected himself in mid thought. Then, after his howl died down into a simple, trembling whimper he tossed the butt off into the darkness and planted two pale hands on either edge of the table.

“Do you know who I am?”

“You’re a traitor, selling out to the Old and refusing to hear the beautiful symphony of your own -- “

He didn’t get to finish his sentence as a hand gripped tightly at the back of his sweaty head and drew his face down into the edge of the table with a meaty crack. Teeth and gum shattered, soon producing another fresh coat of blood, frothy spit, and tears that poured in front of him onto the table. His head was whipped back, revealing a twisted smile that shouldn’t have been so open to displaying the mess of twisted white and pulsing, bleeding pink that had become his mouth.

“Say it.”

“You … an Argonaut.” He sputtered through a busted lip and several shattered teeth. The man finally released his hair, leaving his head to lull forward and drain another few streams of blotchy crimson onto the table.

“Good. And I know who you are, you were collecting for a Praefector, where is he?” The Argonaut inquired, hands calmly returning to the edges of the table and those bloodless eyes studying the form seated before him. “You were a Miles, over the drink in Aelaric. You were activated.”

“The beast required a feast, old eyes and guts on broken bones that need to be replaced … “ He began to mutter again, and recoiled as the man across from him shifted one knuckled fist. Hands strained at the bonds, soon grinding into his wrist bone and revealing more pink, raw flesh that pulsed and ooze the same lumpy blood. “He -- he needed them. The men needed their lord, the war wouldn’t last. The Wretched States would win, the spectre of a broken civilization would fall across the system again -- “

“And so that’s why you were over the line, in Bawlotrig.” He responded, cutting the man off as he babbled away and rising from his hunched position opposite the bound, wriggling body. The man let a sputter of blood and jagged teeth onto the table again, a struggling groan emanating from his throat.

“Nonononono, we were doing good work. We gave those souls you and your pathetic society claims to protect the option to build the final bridge to a true home, they came to us on hands and knees: broken and sundered, they raised their soul and flesh to the last true cause. The Lord took them.”

A bare hand slid to the inside of his coat, and the Argonaut left his hand to settle on the pommel of a knife. He let the man continue to ramble on, accepting the outward monologue the man then embarked upon as he sat there chained to the table. They had brought them into the fold of the unseen war, given them the means and methods to lift themselves into the one true conscious.

They had paid in pounds of flesh.

“You think everything you did was just a simple, plain act. It was as natural as a cat hunting a mouse.” The Argonaut returned softly, and the man’s frantic words soon settled into an awkward, calculating silence. He knew, if his eyes were swelling shut and split apart, that he would be staring at him now. For the first time since they had entered, the man offered a soft smile to the figure bound to the chair. “You don’t like that? Knowing in the back of your head -- or whatever it is you call your mind -- that I’m right?”

“You’re just another fucking one of them. You feared what the dark would reveal and so you insulated yourself in our pathetic old ways, you -- “

“Made a choice.” He finished, then drawing the knife from it’s holster. It made a quiet, metallic song as it was released, and the blade caught light to offer a momentary shine until he planted the tip of the cold, ruthless steel on the table in front of him. “You cut out a twelve year old’s eyes, and harvested the spinal column of a thirty eight year old man.” The Argonaut continued, turning. He stepped along the side of the table, coat flowing behind him and twirling the blade in his palm.

The man didn’t bother struggling, instead trying to straighten his back as correctly as possible as the other closed in beside him. Despite his shattered gums and teeth, he could tell the man was trying to form a grimace: at that was produced were more strings of blood flowing down his lips, the sickening wet noise of his flesh and spit pressing against each other as he struggled to force words through them.

“We did only what predators do. Yet we are better than any animal in existence: better than any carnivore before us, stronger than any organism that has yet ever graced the universe -- even our own twisted, useless, human flesh.”

“We’re animals all right.” He said bluntly back to the man, reaching out to grab the back of his head and grip the mottled hair tightly once more. Craning the man’s head back, he focused on the patch of his neck adjoining his spine to his skull. “Predators and the prey, all clawing and killing from the first breath to the last.”

“They paid their pound of flesh and they live on now -- it’s a sick, great joke, mocking the way you cling to the past like them. We took their useless forms and put their flesh to stone and steel, so that our war on their old god can be brought one step closer to being one. The continent has already fallen, you traitor. You failed to save even one of them.” The man visibly began to writhe now, not in any inherent fear, but as a means of providing animation to what were always their last words. As the Argonaut held his hair tightly, he forced his bleeding gums and stained lips into a wrenching smile.

“There’s a different war on every planet. I’m not losing any sleep fighting them.”

Before the man could respond, the knife was stuck under his neck. A fresh spray of blood went pouring down his tattered shirt and jacket, a few twitches and spasms sent bright lances of the ichor falling to the floor. It puddled around the legs of the chair, which creaked under his weight as he shifted left and right plainly. With another shove, his spinal column was severed and his head fell into a rigidity that seemed almost inhuman.

His eyes, as well, glowed softly from the irises while one final electrical pulse seemed to spread through his body. The other man waited until the body slowly began to slump forward, front stained red and wet with the sickly liquid.
 
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