Tales from Congeria: Joy and Simon 5

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With a huff and a dull thud, Joy stacked a large crate on top of another.

Simon had surprised her early this morning by tossing baggy work clothes on top of her. He said she wasn’t going to get off easy from disobeying orders, and was relegated to warehouse duty. Her mind still fumed at the thought. 

I’m a one in a million person and this is the treatment I get here?

All day and afternoon for the past week, she worked tirelessly, reorganizing and stacking crates full of armaments, munitions, and others supplies. She was covered in dust and sweat, the humidity of the warehouse not helping at all either. She turned away from her finished wall of crates to begin a new one, bumping into a familiar face. Paul was strolling towards her with a smile on his face and hands in his pockets.

“I guess he’s really making you live up to the name of ‘Miss Cost Efficient’ now, hm?”

She paused, raising an eye. “I’m being called what now?”
He stopped not too far away from her. “It’s a little joke I thought of. Since you’re so keen on using fists and don’t use any armor, I thought you must have no impact on our budget. And now you’re giving our warehouse workers a run for their work!”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m really losing my mind here. Did you really come down here just to bug me?”

“Here to deliver a bit of a message actually. Your punishment is up, and Simon wants me to run you through some field work.”

Her face instantly brightened up. “I can lose this piece of crap I’m wearing too, right?”

“You’re actually going to have to dress in something a bit more casual. You don’t exactly want to stick out like a sore thumb when out on the field.”

She literally tore her work shirt off, exposing her well-built musculature only covered by a sports bra. She tossed the rag to the side. 

“Finally, I’ll be able to wear something other than these garbage bags. We get a selection, right?”

Paul slowly lowered his head into one of his hands, shaking it slightly. 

“For that, what do you think your punishment is going to be? One more week of warehouse duty or actually wearing garbage bags out on the field?”

She stared at him with an irritated look. “Please, from how uncomfortable this stuff feels, it wouldn’t make any difference if I was wearing garbage bags or not. You ever worn this stuff?”

“A few times in the past, but I have a good feeling you’ll be getting used to them in the future.”


With a bit of searching for the right-fitting clothing, Joy had changed into sneakers, shorts, and a nice fitting tank top, while Paul wore a bomber jacket, t-shirt and slacks. The two arrived together to a small office. Inside sat Simon, in front of a large table with a screen built into the top of it, and a few computers and consoles behind him. The two pulled up a few chairs and sat in front of him as he began to tap away on the table screen.

“So, I’m hoping you enjoyed your time in the warehouse Joy. Follow my orders next time and you’ll avoid bathroom duty stacked atop of that.”

She huffed and rolled her eyes.

“All right, now that that’s out of the way,” Paul turned to face Joy. “Hopefully you remember the ins and outs of field duty from your guide, right?”
Simon butted in “There’s a reason she’s assigned with you.”
She was smiling wryly, rubbing the back of her head. “Yeah, it’s kinda been well over a month since I last touched that thing.”

“I’m going to assume firsthand experience works better for you than books, so that’s no issue. The entire basis of field duty, at least for us, is responding to reports of demonic activity and dealing with them appropriately. Sound easy?”

“Dealing with them like pummeling the shit out of them, right?”

She could have sworn she head Simon sigh through his helmet.

“You’re half right,” spoke Paul. “The most important part of field duty is finding who specifically was responsible for it. Demons themselves don’t leave anything much to trace, and depending on the demon summoned, it’d actually be better to find the perpetrator instead of the demon first.”

“So find the cartel guys first, right?”
“A reminder for you.” She turned to Simon. “The cartels aren’t the only people who can perform demonic rituals. They merely treat it as a business, doing the killing for those who don’t want to dirty their hands. With a lot of asking around, maybe with a few greased palms, anyone can find out rituals and perform them on their own.”

“Huh, never really gave it that thought. I was wondering why there were so many non-lethal demons listed…”

“Keep in mind that some of the perpetrators are civilians. If you manage to find any, arrest them first, and have Paul deal with the rest.”

Pressing a few more buttons on his table screen, and a city map projected from it, marked with several orange and red blips. 

“All around here are reports of confirmed and suspected demonic activity in the past week. We’ll deploy you both near the neighborhood, and then make your way there on foot. The sight of Crusader jets directly overhead would scare them off anyways.”

Paul stood up and stretched out his arms. “All righty then, simple enough for you to understand Joy?”

“Of course, stop treating me as if I’m that dense!”
“Just follow my lead, and everything will go smoothly, all right?”


Less than an hour later, the two were landed atop a skyscraper from one of the VTOL transports. Taking the elevator the the ground floor and walking out, Joy was greeted with the familiar sight of one of Romitum’s commercial zones, one she lived near in particular. Multiple shops, from small businesses to multi-floored stores were all packed together on the streets. Crowds of people walked in and out of the human traffic that moved slowly on the sidewalks. Trucks and taxis made the majority of the traffic that cruised alongside.

Joy turned to Paul. “We’re still allowed lunch breaks, right? I know a really good barbeque place around here.”

He gave her a thumbs up. “A good four hours of demon hunting and we’ll get thirty to eat.”

She beamed a smile back in return. “Let’s get going, lead the way to the demons!”

Working their way through the crowds, the large department stores petered out, smaller businesses, restaraunts, and homes taking their place. To the plus of the duo, the crowds had also thinned out as well. Past a few more blocks later, they eventually entered a large neighborhood consisting of dozens of fancy looking houses lined up side by side. Joy whistled, gazing around.

“I expected us to stop off somewhere a bit… grimier. You’d think the people who live here would hire their own guards rather than get us to come out here.”

Paul chuckled. “You remember what PMC stands for, right?”
“Paid military-… Oh now I get it. But still, you’d expect to find these demons in skeevier places, right?”

“Alongside narcotics and weapons, the cartels can offer quite a few solutions for petty theft and revenge.”

The two continued to walk into the neighborhood, as Joy stared down at the sidewalk, pondering to herself.

“I get the theft stuff, but what do you mean ‘revenge’? Again, I’d expect that in seedier places.”

He held up his hand in front of her. She bumped into it, looking up. A black, furry, dog-sized beast had just dashed across the street, and was making its way towards a home. Alongside, a van screeched and sped away past the two.

“Maybe you’ll find out in a bit. That thing’s a Devil Skunk. You have my permission to smash the shit out of it, I’m going to head after that truck.”

He threw off his jacket, sprouting a pair of wings and taking to the skies. Unfased by his flight, Joy broke into a sprint, hurrying after the demon that had just hopped a wooden fence into some poor person’s back yard. She easily vaulted over it, and caught sight of the beast again, skittering into a small open window. A scream from somebody followed. The window being too small for her to fit, she hurried around the back yard, finding a doorway into from the back. She ran through, not realizing it was a glass pane door, and accidentally shattered the door, causing the poor homeowner to shriek once more. Inside a small kitchen, she stared sheepishly at the rather aged man, standing atop of a chair with a broom in-hand.

“Hey, don’t worry, I’m here to deal with that demon that came in. Let me just find it and I’ll be out super quick.” 

Running from the kitchen to the home’s living room, she found the beast, viciously hissing at her. She quickly recalled what she could remember about Devil Skunks, and the only thing she had to worry about was the stench it could spray. If it did, the surrounding houses would have to move out due to the stench, and gods help her if she herself got sprayed. As she ran closer towards it, the beast’s fur literally stood up straight, firing several needles at her. Each one bounced harmlessly off of her skin as she killed the beast with a powerful stomp. The house shook a bit with the impact, the floor even cracking, and the demon slowly dissolved into dust. She sighed, wiping a trickle of sweat off of her brow.

“Thank god that thing didn’t spray.”

She began strolling back out the back door.

“Hey, hold on! You’re going to pay for the damage done, right?”

She turned to the man, who had stepped down from the chair and looked rather angry. She simply shrugged. “It’s the price to pay to avoid getting your house labeled as a biohazard.”

She continued on, pressing a button on her earpiece. “Yeah Paul, please tell me there’s some kind of coverage for property damage, right?”

She heard a sigh. “Did the thing spray? No way in hell we can cover that.”

“No no, just a shattered sliding door. Kinda didn’t realize one was in the way.”

“Whew, well since you asked, we can cover for minor repair costs. Anyways, meet back out front.”
Hopping to the fence and waiting, Paul shortly landed in front of her. 

“Those two men were most certainly part of the cartels. The back of their truck was all set up for rituals, with a now killed sacrifice, and was probably where that devil skunk came from. Unfortunately, they killed themselves with cyanide tablets before I could get ahold of them.”

She groaned in response. “Cowards, the both of em.”

“Let’s just hope they were sloppy and left some clues for detectives to find, yeah?”

He retracted his wings, putting back on his jacket. 

“There’s still more reports of activity around here. Let’s get scouting and hope to get lucky.”

Hours passed of a mostly dull day of patrolling the neighborhood. Hoping a bit more excitement like when she first arrived, Joy was looking less for signs of demonic activity, but more something she could actually do. Paul constantly kept a good watch on the rows of houses, finding nothing out of the ordinary for the entirety of their patrol.

“You sure we weren’t fed false info or something?” Joy put her arms behind her head, stretching.

“Or maybe you aren’t being vigilant enough?”

She glared angrily at him, opening her mouth. He held up his hand, smiling.

“Hey, I’m just teasing! Today just may not be our day, you know? If you can’t tell, it’s not common sense to use demons blatantly, let alone summoning a beast.”

“Eh, figures. Hold on.”

She turned, noticing a man crouching in a bush at the end of somebody’s lawn. His head was barely peeping out of the top, staring through the window of a house. Joy sneered to herself and walked behind the man, slowly placing her hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, you trying to hide from anyone?”

The man shrieked and sprung out from his hiding place, landing on his back on the grass. His clothing was dirty and all patched up, looking like he’d been wearing the same shirt, pants, and jacket for the past week nonstop. He scrambled back, a bewildered look dominating his face.

“What the fuck? Who are you, and what do you want?”

She scoffed. “I’m not the one hiding in the bush. Maybe you want to tell me what you’re doing first?”

Bewilderment turned to anger as he simply spat at her, giving her a middle finger. She merely rolled her eyes, turning to Paul.

“Don’t these neighborhoods have rent-a-cops for people like this?”

Paul glanced over at the man, his eyes widening slightly. “Well, kinda. Notice something funny?”

Joy turned back to the main getting up, brushing the fresh dirt off of his clothes, and she noticed he spread blood on his pants. He looked up, still glaring and the two Crusaders.
“Either that was a sharp bush orrr…. There we are!” Paul pointed towards the house the man was standing at. Literally squeezing itself under the door, a fleshy rodent creature began scuttling towards the man. He kneeled down, picking it up, and turned back to his observers.

“What, I got a pet rat. You two got a problem or something?”

Joy quickly stepped forward, shoving the man to the ground, the creature flying into the air. She caught it, crushing it with her hand as she did. As the flesh slowly dissolved into dust, she felt something much harder in its place. When she opened it, a few expensive looking rings and a pearl necklace were in its place. She snapped her head towards the man, glaring deviously at him. 

“So thought you could use a snatcher without consequence, huh?”

The man quickly scrambled to his feet, but Joy effortlessly pushed him over once more, placing her foot on his back. Paul walked up to her, staring down as the man tried to scramble free.

“Nice catch Joy. Now then mister, I’m sure you realize that summoning a demon is one hell of a crime, pun intended. We might be able to lessen it however if you tell us who taught you how to do that?”

The man stopped scrambling. “Demon? Fuck I was told that thing was just some kind of special thief rat! I swear to god, I didn’t do any of that, some guy just sold this thing to me!”

He screamed as Joy applied a bit more pressure. “Really wiseguy? How do you explain that fresh cut on your hand?”

“The thing bites, and I didn’t have any carrier for it! Please, I didn’t intend to get involved with this demon shit, let me off easy!”

Joy stared at Paul, him nodding in response. Joy removed her foot from the man, and Paul dragged him up.

“I guess we can believe you, but you aren’t off the hook pal.”

He took him over to a lampost, cuffing his hands around it. He pulled a small tablet from his jacket, taking a few photos of his face.

“Just hang tight and the police will come and get you, all right?”

He struggled and yelled, screaming for help as Paul ran away. Joy stared nervously at him.

“You sure it’s all right to do that? He won’t get free?”

“If by some miracle he does break free, he’ll get caught fairly quickly. His face is all over the Crusaders database, all it’ll take is one match on any sort of security camera and local police will be all over him.”

“Ah, well that- Hold up, some sort of security camera? Do the Crusaders have cameras everywhere?”

“We don’t, but everyone else does. A bit of a lesser known fact, but the Romitum Council, and by extension the Crusaders have access to every CCTV feed around Romitum. Makes it pretty easy to clamp down on known offenders with good ole facial recognition tech.” He paused, noticing Joy giving him a stare of concern. “What, you expected this country to be so orderly simply by the goodwill of everyone living here?”

“The largest breach of privacy known to mankind running here and you still can’t get rid of these cartels?”
“I did say known offenders. Plus those slummish areas tend to be lacking in cameras for us to use.”

“When I get home, if I find a single hidden camera anywhere I’m going to give a good thrashing to whoever…. I don’t even know, who thought of that system?”

“Whoever suggested it is probably long dead to be fair. Now then, how does a lunch break sound?”

“Barbeque sounds great!”


Shoved snugly between an apartment and a large department store, “Slice of Radi” certainly lived up to its name. It’s wooden walls contrasted with the concrete around it, and the tonal whiplash was still the same on the inside: Old sanded down plank flooring, wooden chairs and tables that constanty creaked, and ceiling fans to really tie together the ancient feel of it. Paul relaxed at one of the tables with a glass of water in front of him, glancing around at the few customers who stuck around. Joy soon bounded back with two plates of ribs, cuts of beef, beans, and coleslaw, one plate with larger helpings than the other. She plopped the tray down, taking the larger plate for herself and bit into a rib.

“This place doesn’t skimp out when it comes to their meats. I hear they get it imported from cattle living way far outside city walls.” She spoke between bites.

Paul took his plate and started cutting a slab of beef into a smaller size.

“Does that really affect the taste? Beef is beef, be it grass-fed or raised in a factory.”

She laughed a bit, now shoving half a slice of beef into her already stuffed mouth. “It depends how much you like the taste of soot and chemicals! By the way, I had to pay with my cash for this. The Crusaders covers for costs like this, right?”

Paul shook his head as he took a bite of beef. “You know since we’re here and on topic, why did you want to join the crusaders… Well the special operations unit more specifically so badly. I haven’t mentioned why I joined, right?”

With a mouthfull of beans she shook her head. “I think it was something about search and rescue?”

“Yup. I don’t think it’d be a good idea to show my wings off again right now.” He chuckled. “Search and rescue just felt like a job for me when I first started, ya know? I started way back volunteering for my neighborhoods fire department, and just thought, ‘this is what I wanna do with my life.’ Not working for the fire department, but there’s something just wonderful about the feeling you get when an innocent family is saved. Not even just the glory of it, it’s just nice to see good honest people safe from disaster. The Guardian Angels was a perfect fit for me to join up with my life plotted out, like an added bonus to doing work I already love. I was already just so good, and when Simon extended his hand to have me join special operations? I’m not sure what excited me more, the position itself or the new opportunities it’d offer. The Crusaders just helped me get connected to help even more people.”

Joy was cleaning off another rib. “That’s nice. But why are you telling me this?”

“You just seem odd and I want to get to know you more Joy. Tit for tat except with our pasts. What’s your passion, why did you so… well… aggresively seek to join special operations?”

She stared at him for a few moments and shrugged.

“Honestly I just wanted to push myself further and beat the shit out of demons.” She picked up another rib and took a large chomp out of it. Paul simply felt the need to spit out his water if he was drinking it.

“You WHAT?”
“Is there something wrong with that? I do a good job at it.”
“So you just… What even was your plan? Just beat the shit out of demons? Get lucky and…”
He dropped his face into his palms. “What did you even do before this insane idea?”
“MMA and I used to be a personal trainer, but that didn’t work out too well. MMA meanwhile just lost its spark to me, so I thought “What’s the next best thing to do?” I did a bit of searching, found out about the God of Righteous Fury, heard word about the Special Operations Unit, and thought that it would work out pretty well for me. And so far, it has! I haven’t been this challenged in forever!”

“You wasted your pledge on a con artist of a God just for thrills?”

“What do you mean con artist? I’m the purest person I know!”
Paul took a deep breath, taking a quick drink of water. “Gods almighty I need to dull my senses to just process how you think.”
She glared at him. “You do realize I could literally bury you beneath the concrete, right?”

“But doesn’t the God of RIghteous Fury have any rules or drawbacks? Any other shit he’d jump on you if you’re deemed worthy or something?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Rules?”

“Yeah you know, guidelines to follow or hindrances. Followers of the Crusaders pledge their life to fighting demons and can’t use their skills anywhere else, Guardian Angels have to dedicate their life to rescuing other humans, be it in military or for civil service. Enforcers under the Divine Judge can only use their abilities for law enforcement, and they may never take another life. All to stop gods from becoming too powerful.?”
“Wait, like, if you break those rules your pledge gets revoked? I always thought for most Gods it was more related to their organization than the god.”
“What, do you think members of the Clergy of Companionship just killed themselves when their bonded animal died?”
“Good point… But back on topic, nope. He just told me to wear this insignia with pride.” She pointed to her abs, where the insignia was proudly displayed.

“How is that God even legal then? They HAVE to have some regulations, else that archstone would be several thousand meters below the surface.”

Swallowing a bit of food, she lifted up her finger. “Oh there’s actually a funny story about that. Apparently about half a decade ago, some officials saw him as a threat and petitioned to remove his church and archstone with the Council. Little did they know, one of those who was pure of heart was a VERY talented lawyer who fought and won against that movement. That must be pretty nice huh? Being able to destroy people in and out of the courtroom.”

Paul leaned back in his chair, dumbstruck as she cleaned off her plate. “Hey, you gonna finish your food?”

“I’ll get to it when my brain fully processes this insanity. I thought I saw it all working for special operations…”

“But given from history, he’s done a good job of picking those pure of heart, right? Hasn’t been a single man who went on a rampage of righteous fury.”

“Fair enough, I guess.” He picked up his fork and stabbed into a piece of beef. 

A few more bites into his meal, his tablet began to buzz noisily. Putting down the fork, he quickly yanked it out of his pocked, eyes widening at the sight.

“Looks like we got some action to get to. A berserker has been spotted in a nearby neighborhood.


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Joy and Simon – Chapter 2.5

Once again, another .5 chapter kinda deal. Mostly doing this to get a groove on with writing/practicing/exploring character stuff. So enjoy the read!


With Joy patched up and sent off to bed, Simon returned to the training arena. He brought up a small clock on his visor. 2:34 AM.

I need to de-rust myself for her anyways. There should be plenty of time to sleep afterwards.

He walked forward to a computer console overlooking the arena, with a large lever next to the screen. He typed away a flurry of commands into the device, perusing through various screens and typing in a new program. He compiled a threateningly long list of demons held captive, stretching across the entire screen, setting each one to come out in timed waves. Saving his program, he prepared to launch it, still staring at the list he put together.

Can’t tell if this is too much or too little for me to handle. Only one way to find out.

He briefly left the room to the now-empty armory. He started by grabbing his strange rifle, preemptively loading a large round into it. He walked over to a locker, unlocking and opening it. Inside was practically a miniature armoy in it of itself. A few other matching camo jackets, dozens of boxes and belts of differing types of ammo, a few large looking drum shotguns, various large pistols, and a diverse amount of explosive devices ranging from fragmentation to plastic. He grabbed an ammo belt of rounds for his strange rifle, holstered two pistols, slung a shotgun and a few drums over his shoulder, and took a few of every type of grenade, stowing most of it stealthily in his camo jacket. Behind his mask, he cracked a smile.

Knowing what’s coming should make this fight no issue.

Strolling back to the arena, he grabbed hold of a large lever next to the console

He pulled the lever, and the sound of whirring machinery surrounded him. A distant clanging emanated from within the arena, all of the elevators moving simultaneously. He still strolled over to the entrance elevator, hitting the button. He slowly descended into the arena, watching as all three massive doors slowly began to open. From the center elevator, a large, berserker-sized winged beast took a step out of the darkness of the elevator. It screeched, breaking through the loud sound of machinery. At its feet were a dozen blood beasts of varying size, ranging from the size of boars to as large as rhinos. From the right, ten shredders began rushing out, encircling the arena hunting for their prey. From the left elevator, several quadrupedal skeletal demons with a razor-sharp hooked tail, Acrobats, scurried out, sniffing out the area with their strange doglike heads. As Simon’s elevator finally touched the ground, he quickly reached inside his jacket and took out two tin-can looking grenades. As his door slid open and he noticed the horde of shredders enclosing, he tossed them both out. Instinctively, the shredders barreled out of the way, and the moment the grenades hit the ground, they exploded into a cloud of smoke. Calling it smoke would be an understatement, as its consistency was more that of ash. Every shredder was trapped in a prison of thick ash, most of the material stuck in their eyes. Despite this disadvantage, they still maintained their composure, standing perfectly still. On the outside of the cloud, the blood beasts blindly charged in, the acrobats observing and smelling the strange substance, and the great winged beast observing the smaller ones charge forward.

Simon had finally taken his first step out of the elevator. His visor glowed a deep red as he aimed his strange rifle, pointing straight at the stomach of the large winged beast.

With a loud crack, the large demon let out an ear-rending screech as a fireball erupted from its stomach. It slowly fell over with a burning hole in its center, crushing the few blood beasts who failed to charge forward fast enough. Simon observed through the smoke how every last shredder whipped their heads over to the sudden screeching. He loaded a new round into his rifle quickly and slung it over his shoulder, pulling out one of his pistols and breaking into a sprint. He neared the closest group of three shredders, shooting all of them in the head. The other seven whipped their heads over to the gunshot and immediately began sprinting over to him. With lightning-fast speed, he holstered his pistol and slung the shotgun into his hand. Despite their insane speed, the approaching shredders still fell victim to his aim. One, two, three, four, five, six, each approaching shredder suffered the same fate, exploding into a mix of flesh and bone, as every heavy cluster of pellets slammed into them. His drum empty, the seventh leapt into the air towards him, claws outstretched and mouth agape. Unfortunately for the demon, Simon had merely stepped a foot to the side as the beast crashed into the ground. He quickly hurried over to the collapsed beast with the shotgun still in hand, and smashed the thing’s skull with the butt of his gun. Moving quickly to reload his shotgun, he heard another deathly shriek, and felt wind whip all around him. His ash blew away along with the wind, all caking itself on the wall of the arena. He slung his shotgun and drew his rifle, whipping around and firing to the source of the scream. The shot flew fast, striking the shoulder of the great winged demon, still fanning its wings. The bullet went straight through, but the demon only responded with a grunt, glaring straight at Simon. He shifted his focus to the oncoming bloodbeasts and acrobats, now well aware of his location. Two of the rhino-sized ones charged forward, forming a wall of demonic flesh intent on entrapping him. As they let out a primal roar, Simon took out a few fragmentation grenades, tossing them right into their mouths. He quickly pulled out a third red-marked grenade and threw it at their feet, it exploding into flames and disrupting the beasts’ formations. They reared back, trying to avoid the burning napalm and tumbled over themselves, skidding to a halt mere feet away from him. Only a few seconds later did they explode outwards into a mass of unrecognizable flesh.

Seizing the opportunity, two acrobats had leapt over the flames towards him. Unfortunately for them, he had already drawn his shotgun, and shot them both out of the air. More acrobats and lesser bloodbeasts approached, and he broke into a sprint, circling the outer edge of the arena. Five bloodbeasts, two acrobats, and the greater winged demon were all that remained. The bloodbeasts were the first to close in on him as he continued to sprint. From his jacket, he dropped a few plastic explosives onto the ground. As the pack of beasts passed over, he tactfully detonated the devices, pulverizing the entire group. The next threat on his mind was the winged demon. Despite the hole in its stomach, it still stumbled slowly towards him, with a morale-ruining look of rage on its head. He cursed himself for missing its head earlier as he glared back at the oncoming acrobats. Knowing it would be a bit tougher to take them both, he skidded to a stop and reversed course, charging straight towards the oncoming acrobats. They leapt into the air, lashing out their tales towards him. He slid under the beasts, actually grabbing them by the tails as he did so, and slammed them both into the ground. Grabbing his second pistol, he fired two shots for each demon: One in the stomach, and another in the head. He sighed internally after pulling that stunt off, and turned his head to the still-approaching winged demon. Its face had slowly transitioned from rage to pain over the course of the battle, and with the mortal wound it could not heal, it visibly struggled to move forward. Without any hesitation, Simon slung his rifle over, loading in a new round, and fired a final shot between its eyes. The demon barely had any energy left to let out a screech. It merely froze up after taking the hit, and slowly fell over, dissolving into dust.

That was what completely populated the arena. Large yet scattered piles of demonic dust. Simon’s suit was coated in a mix of the dust and ash. He glared back at the wall behind him, finding ash caking the windows of the observation chamber. He put a finger up to his helmet, cycling through contacts.

“I’m going to need a cleaning crew to head over to the training arena ASAP. There’s one hell of a mess for you all to clean up.”

It was a hell of a mess for them to clean up, but they bore witness to something they’d never expect to see in their lifetime: The aftermath of a battle Simon participated in.

Tales from Congeria: Joy and Simon 4


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Over a month of rigorous training had continued for Joy. Continuing her improvised endurance workouts and ending the evenings with more intensive combat training with Simon. Learning how to properly use cover, using the environment and her strength to her advantage, and how to outplay an armed opponent, even with her semi-invulnerability, Simon rushed her through this using himself as the opponent, but no matter how crafty Joy got, he always came out on top. Every morning her body still screamed in pain from the previous day’s workout, but she still willed herself to continue, her mind screaming even louder that she wouldn’t let Simon beat her. She hadn’t had time to meet and chat with the others much, with Simon being more demanding and for her to get up earlier and earlier. At the end of the month, however, Simon finally gave her permission to take the day off.

The following morning, she was grateful not to be screamed at to wake up, and made her way to the cafeteria. For her outfit, she still got a few eyes from the other soldiers, but not as many as she initially got. She glanced around, catching sight of Maria and Annie. She quickly scooped a tray full of food and hurried over to the two.

Annie waved to her. “Hey Joy, good to see that Simon has been working you hard.”

Joy sat down. “You could tell? Gods, he probably would have thrown me into a pot of oil and that wouldn’t have burned as badly as my body feels.” She glanced around. “Where are the other two? I’ve been waiting forever to give Rex a piece of my mind.”

The other two giggled. Joy stared at them for a few moments. “He didn’t tell you anything did he?”
Maria burst out laughing. “As if he could say anything! No, he recorded every hour of his sparring session with you.”

Joy’s face scrunched up with anger. “What the hell?”

“Don’t worry, he only showed us the best parts.”

She banged the table, putting a dent in it. “That piece of shit! Remind me to bring a camera when I get to beat the snot out of him.”

Annie leaned back, stretching. “You might wanna be careful, else your next exercise might be scrubbing the entire cafeteria.”

Joy rolled her eyes. “Yeah yeah, enough with the jokes. Was your training really as intense as the bullshit I had to go through, by the way?”

“I can’t say. Usually are training is specialized to what we’re best at. Mine was a good few months of bonding training.”
Joy raised an eyebrow.

“Oh right… Let me show you my partner in crime.” From her jacket she pulled a large holed container. She popped it open and held it up to Joy’s eyes, revealing a coiled up cobra.

“Really? That’s it?”

Annie closed the container and put it away. “Ever hear of the Clergy of Companionship?”

“That animal bonding god?”

She nodded. “When fighting a bunch of beasts that are completely powered on human blood, I thought having a companion who could turn their blood solid would be pretty handy.”

“So much for your lifespan. Isn’t your life bound to that cobras?”

Marie held up a hand. “Annie thought far ahead of that. She graduated in bioengineering, and I’m sure even someone like you can assume the rest.”

Joy raised an eyebrow. “So you have an immortal super cobra you can command?”

Annie laughed. “Not immortal, but certainly long living enough, and definitely super. Companion training was a month long camping trip from hell. They dropped me off in one of the forests outside the Flesh Abyss with an old tent and barely enough rations, and told me to survive.”

Joy stared bewildered for a few moments before shaking the expression off. “That sounds pretty tough. It’s probably better than being Simon’s pin-cushion.”

Annie laughed. “No really, what was your training?”

“Simon’s been giving me a crash course on combat training.” She stood up, pointing to numerous burns and scratches on her abdomen. “He’s also a big fan of using live ammunition as well.”

Marie gaped at the sight. “You’re bulletproof?”
She sat back down. “Hell yeah! Only downside is that it still stings like hell.”

Annie huffed. “Still, being trained by Simon himself… I’m telling you Joy, you’re extremely lucky.”

“You can say that again!” She stuck a fork into her plate and shoved food into her mouth.

She had finished her meal quickly and returned to her dorm. She hadn’t pondered what specifically she wanted to do for the day, but considering how the entire month went, only one thing was on her mind: More sleep. She crashed into her bed. It bent somewhat from the impact, and she soon drifted off to sleep. Unfortunately for her, it only lasted for what felt like minutes. The slamming of a door forced her awake from her slumber. She rubbed her eyes, turning to the source of the sound.

“People are trying to sleep here!” She paused as she realized Simon was standing in her door frame.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that was all it took to wake you up Joy.”

She slowly got up. “What’s that supposed to mean…”

“You’ll understand if you get sent out on any long-term mission. Speaking of which, today I have a perfect opportunity for your training, but it all depends on whether you want to take it or-”

“Hey, today’s my day off! Just let me rest for like, I dunno, a few more hours or something.”

“Perhaps you should wait to let me finish, because I know you’ll be interested. The most I can tell you is we’ve discovered a small warehouse run by the Demonic Cartel. Normally we’d have a regular squad clear it out, but it should be a good way for you to demonstrate the results of your training.”

She looked at him with a small twinkle of excitement in her eye. “So you’re just going to drop me in and let me crack some skulls?”

“Yes. I’ll be watching and providing support as well.”

She leapt out of bed. “You should have mentioned this sooner!”

Simon turned, beckoning her with his hand. “We’re heading there by aircraft. Grab whatever you need. Briefing will be done mid-flight.”


The VTOL aircraft was soaring through the sky as the sun still shined high up. It was somewhat different from the one Joy had initially arrived in, this one looking much more sleek, along with the cabin containing numerous computers and support crew. Joy, who had simply brought along a boot knife and earpiece along with her uniform, was strapped into a chair near the back. Simon sat across from her.

“Listen closely.” Simon crackled through her earpiece. “We still have a good while before arrival, so you’re going to get a crash course in special operations.”

She nodded, focusing on his mask.

“Normally the bulk of the Crusaders focus on fighting demons and distributors of demonic goods. Special operators are in charge of destroying the producers of these goods and demonic beings.”

“Sounds-”

“You’re going to say inefficient, but this country would be in a hell of a lot more trouble if we just sent any random Crusader to destroy these facilities. The producers know how to perform sacrifices to demonic lords. The spread of information is restricted to word of mouth already, and we don’t want to risk more susceptible ears to demonic temptations.”

“Shouldn’t it be common sense to you know, not sacrifice people to demons?”

“The desperate and maniacal don’t exactly follow common sense. If you want a good example, that warehouse you’re about to storm? We have good evidence that shows they’re producing a simple yet potent demon narcotic called Bliss. All it does is purge all negative thoughts and emotions and makes you feel happy. There’s no physical downsides to it either.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad?”
“There’s no such thing as ‘not too bad’ when dealing with something that requires human lives to produce Joy. That’s not even mentioning how mentally addictive the stuff even is. I could probably get hooked on the feeling it’s so potent.”

She grimaced. “So, just smash the place into an unrecognizable wreckage then?”

“One of three objectives. Kill every cartel member in there, destroy the facility completely, and rescue any potential captives. They can’t conjure live sacrifices out of nowhere.”

A grin spread across her face. “I have no objections to that at all!”

Several moments later, she felt the jet slow down, Simon standing up in response. Joy followed as a hatch in the back of the plane opened up. He walked right up to the hatch, slinging his strange rifle over he shoulder.

“We’re still a good mile from the warehouse, only thing you have to do is not alert anyone.”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Don’t want to spoil their surprise now!”
He pulled a lever, a small mechanism deploying a few cables down the hatch. “Let’s get going then, I’ll lead the way.” He clicked a small zipline onto the rope and leapt down the hatch. Joy followed, glancing down below. They were hovering over a collection of small offices and factories, stretching out as far as she could see. Noticing the ropes dropped into an alleyway, she opted to slide down the cable with her bare hands. She slid faster than anticipated, crashing onto the ground with a heavy thud. Simon came down behind her only a few seconds later.

“Don’t take your abilities for granted, you should know this by now.”
She turned to him, smiling. “Why did you think jumped down like this?”

“You better not be bullshitting me. Once more, stick behind me, and don’t make yourself apparent.”


The two spent several minutes navigating through the industrial sector. Plumes of smoke covered the sky, and the sound of heavy machinery resounded throughout the area. Each block was lined with dozens of factories and workshops, several forklifts and trucks moving between them in the streets. With everyone so busy with their work, they barely had time to notice the armored man and burly woman moving between buildings. The further they moved into the sector, the less activity they saw. By the time Simon halted, there were no trucks on the street, barely any voices to be heard. He crept forward through another alleyway, pointing at a warehouse across the street.

“Most of the warehouses around here have yet to be used, and that one right there was purchased months ago by a front company. With a bit of digging, we found out the front only existed in name. A few trucks leave here once every day, and we were able to confirm the production of Bliss right under our noses.”

Joy crossed her arms. “Well, what are you waiting for then? Let’s get to ripping this place apart!”
“Hold on. Before I unleash you, mind that you’ll be mostly on your own. I’ll provide informational support, but that’s it. For you, kill every last person in there, destroy all signs of cartel activity, and don’t cause any collateral damage to surrounding buildings. Understood?”

“I won’t make any promises on that last one, but for the rest, you can count me in!”

Simon took a grappling hook from his coat, quickly roping and climbing the building next to him. She waited with a giddy look on her face as he set himself up atop the roof, pointing his rifle at the warehouse. Staring through his scope, he flicked a switch on the side of his rifle, suddenly lighting up several human figures through the walls.

“I’m staring at what looks to be around twenty grunts, three people in the back caught up in a Bliss production ritual. No signs of civilian prisoners, they could be in the basement or out of my sight, so take care. Information seemed to be on our side, most of the guards here are armed with nothing greater than sub-machine guns, at least as far as I can tell. Looks like from the shape of it, maybe a few grunts with shotguns, so take care.”

She nodded to herself. “Nothing too worrisome, sounds like a piece of cake.”

“And don’t you even think about trying the front door. Bulletproof or not, last thing I want is to save your incapacitated ass from being captured.”

“Please, have a bit more faith! I got a good idea.”

She sprinted across the road, quickly nearing one of the warehouse walls.

“Can you see any objects through that fancy scope of yours?”
“Only the heat from humans. If you want to start with the least resistance, that wall you’re at is close to two grunts, the rest a good distance away.”

She smiled deviously. “Then time to put my plan into action.”

She grabbed her boot knife and jabbed it into the wall, pulling down and created a small cut in the wall. The guards behind flinched, turning to the noise. Through the cut, she stuck her fingers in, slowly expanding the hole. She tore out the sheet of metal wall, continuously pushing and ripping it out until she had made a hole in the wall she could easily walk through. She entered a small break room as the two grunts stared as the woman marched through her new doorway. She held up the chunk of metal she had torn from the wall.

“So, I hope you two are aware of the severity of your crimes. I’m going to give you an option: Turn ourselves into the Crusaders, or…”

Without breaking a sweat, she took the chunk of metal and crumpled it into a ball.

“I’ll do this to your skulls. You got five seconds.”
“Joy, what the fuck are you doing?”
The men stared at her feat only for a second before drawing their sub-machine guns and firing. She winced, flinching as the bullets peppered her body. They realized they had done nothing, and she smiled at them menacingly.

Artwork by sheepapp

“Looks like you’re going for option number two!” She chucked the ball of metal at the first guard, crashing into his head and killing him instantly. Before the second man could fire, she quickly jumped towards him, roundhouse kicking him in the head, sending him flying across the room, smashing into a wall.”

“Good job, you’ve likely just made the rest of them aware of your presence.”
“Hey, I still had this possibility planned out. Ending up in this room just makes it a bit easier.”
“Well think fast four grunts are checking out that noise.”

She stared around the break room. There was only a stove, refrigerator, and various other culinary appliances, alongside a table and chairs. Hearing footsteps rushing outside, she quickly grabbed the fridge, gripping into it like a giant battering ram.

“Just let me know when they’re outside Simon, I got a surprise for them.”

She stood in front of the door with the fridge in hands, waiting.

“There’s one in front, two to the sides, and one waiting in the distance to the far right.”

She threw the fridge forward, smashing through the door and crushing the poor grunt behind it. She dashed to the dorway for only a second before yanking the two grunts in by the necks, easily snapping both of them. Peeking outside of the doorway, she noticed that it lead directly into the main warehouse, where large semi-trucks were parked. The fridge she had thrown had embedded itself into the side of one of them, with the poor grunt sandwiched between. She noticed the grunt to the right, hiding behind the front of the semi, and she ducked back into her room. This time, yanking the counter from out of the wall, she forced it through the doorway. She pushed it to approach the distant grunt, hiding below it. The grunt fired out of panic at the approaching counter to no effect. Before he even realized the counter had stopped moving, she leaped over the counter, dealing a lethal kick to his chest. She quickly hid behind the front of the truck, peeking around both corners.

“No need to worry just yet, there’s no more around your area. The rest seem to be keeping their guns all pointed towards the front.”

She looked to the back of the warehouse, noticing a large wall separating it with only a small double doorway leading through it.

“Guess I gotta make a new door. Fourteen all back there watching the doors?”
“Correct.”

She hurried back out the doorway she made and pulled her knife out once more. She leapt high up, jabbing it into the wall. Using the small grip she made, she launched herself up, landing on the roof of the warehouse. When staring down, she had another idea.

“I think I got another good idea to hit two birds with one stone. Think you can fire a shot for me soon?”
“Not with that language.”

She sighed. “Permission to request a small amount of fire support?”
“Any reason?”

“Those trucks are bound to have some fuel barrels around. I have a good hunch that those Bliss rituals are behind there, so if we flame the place out, we can burn the grunts to a crisp and burn those rituals down.”

“Not bad Joy. It’s a good think you remember basic chemical reactions.”

She grunted, but smiled. Leaping off of the roof, she hurried back into the front of the warehouse. With minimal searching, she found a few barrels of fuel. She went back and forth from them, each time holding a barrel in one arm so she could still scale up to the roof. With a small stack of barrels now nearby, Simon guided her to right over where he located the ritual. She plunged her knife into the roof, and began tearing a hole into the roof. Though for a moment, she froze. Time seemed to slow down, all the grunts screaming at the new hole in the roof, as she noticed what the ritual was. In the center of a demonic sigil was a stake with a human body tied down to it. They looked completely sucked dry of blood and life, yet they still struggled and groaned against the ritual. Several tubes were connected to various arteries, all bleeding a gold-like substance into IV-bags.

“Joy! Respond, Joy!”
She flinched, retreating back. “Those rituals… There’s still live people in there! That’s where this Bliss comes from?”
“I told you, anything demonic comes off of the blood of other humans.”

“We can’t just kill them, can we?”

“Every ounce of their blood is already bliss. We remove them from the sigil, they die. You’ll be doing them a favor by putting them out of their misery.”

She froze for a few moments, staring blankly at the barrels of fuel.

“All right. Let’s burn everyone down there into a crisp, and I’ll personally deal with the rest.”

“Just make sure to drop one at a time on my mark.”

She carried the first barrel, dropping when Simon yelled “Mark.” As it dropped, she heard screaming for people to “hold their fire” below. Seconds before the barrel hit the ground, a crack resounded through the air, the barrel exploding into flames milliseconds later. Joy fell back, the fireball nearly bursting through her hole. She scrambled back to her feet, grabbing the next barrel and repeating the process. Three bursts of fire later, she stared down, seeing nothing left of the ritual site but a pile of ash. Rage burning in her eyes, she jumped through the hole, her landing kicking up clouds of ash. She felt gunfire hit her back. She turned around, seeing a badly burned man shooting her with a pistol. She walked over, ignoring his shots, kicking the gun from his hand and grabbing him by the throat.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve being involved with this shit.”

She gripped tighter, snapping his neck, and tossing him aside.

“Simon, how many left?”
“I can’t tell, all the fire has left my heat sight worthless. You’re on your own.”

She scanned the area, noticing several horribly burned and groaning grunts, several dead, many still on the verge of life. She walked over to another one until she heard a metal hatch clang open. She turned, noticing a large demonic beast walk from a hatch in the ground. It’s stature looked like a bouncer on every steroid known to man, its muscles almost looking like armor. It was followed by a final man, but instead of a grunt, it was a man whose left left arm was replaced by a terrifying, pulsing, demonic claw.

“Simon, there’s only two left. One Warden demon, another guy with some kind of biomorph instead of an arm.”

“You still know your mission. Put them both down.”

She charged immediately for the man, but the Warden demon quickly intercepted her, slamming its fist into her side and sending her flying into the wall. She grunted as she impacted it as the man shook his head. She leapt back to her feet, eyes locked on the man’s taunting expression. He gestured to one of he still struggling grunts, lying on the ground, and the warder walked over to it. Spikes protruded from its hand as it stabbed it into the man. He grew more and more shriveled as the muscles of the demon slowly darkened into a deep crimson. It turned to Joy, its bizarre human-like face locking eyes with her. Enraged, Joy lurched forward at the beast, throwing several hard punches to the beast’s abdomen. Every blow she threw felt like she was punching the thickest marble, but it’s skin reacted likewise, cracking which each blow. She sneered as the Warden swung down at her, her easily slipping around its blow and delivering a strong kick to its stomach, sending it sliding back. The biomorphed man watched, his smug expression slowly dying away as he saw the woman was slowly overcoming his warden. He held up his demonic arm, slowly forming it into something new as a red crystal surfaced at the palm of it. As the warden blocked the oncoming blows from Joy, it glanced back to its master for a few moments, before tackling Joy and pinning her to a wall. Her arms pinned to her side, she struggled for a few moments before breaking her arm free, and she wailed mercilessly at its head with her free arm. With a powerful blow, she knocked the demon’s head right off, sending it flying away, but the beast still held strong onto her. She glanced up, noticing the biomorphed man was holding his arm at her, it now glowing a bright red. She panicked, struggling and kicking as hard as she could at the stomach of the beast, until another crack rang throughout the air. The man staggered and fell, a bright red beam exploding from his arm and cutting effortlessly through the wall and beyond right next to Joy. Her earpiece crackled.

“Don’t be stunned or give me any thank you’s just yet, finish your mission first.”

A few more kicks and she felt her crack the stomach of the beast. Her final kick felt much softer as the thing lost its grip on her and fell back. She rushed forward, grabbing her knife and stabbing into the stomach. It flinched only for a few moments before it dissolved into dust. Hearing groaning still, she turned to the biomorph man, struggling on the ground with a shoulder. She put her boot on his chest, pinning him down.

“With a fancy biomorph like that, you’re probably the one in charge here?”

Panic took over as his face turned pale. He nodded furiously.

“In that case, I’m going to give you some good news: You’re not going to die today.”

He sighed. “Gods bless you miss, I swear I didn’t even want to be roped in this deep! I’ll serve all the jailtime you want me to, just don’t kill me!”

She stomped the shoulder of his biomorph arm, causing him to scream wildly. She took her knife out, and slowly cut it off.

“I didn’t say you’d get out of today unwounded. But I have a special request for you. Unless you want your head to go next.”
Amidst the screaming in pain, he spoke “Anything! Just anything!”
“Go to your each and every one of your superiors, bosses, I don’t care. Let them know that I am going to personally tear each and every one of them apart limb by limb.”

He nodded wide-eyed and furiously.

“Do yourself a favor also.” She tore off his shirt, tossing it back at him. “Use this to at least slow down the bleeding. I need you alive to deliver my message.”


Flames still burned as Joy dusted off the ash from her hands. The man had scurried away out of sight long ago, and she had just killed off the last of the grunts still crawling around. In the small hatch, she had discovered several civilians trapped in cells. To theirs and her enjoyment, she merely ripped off the doors to each cell, setting each one free.

“All right Simon, no survivors left, and civilians saved.”

“You sure? How about that man with the biomorph?”

“He managed to get away unfortunately. I was too busy trying to break free from that Warden.”

She heard a sigh over the radio. Hearing doors being kicked open, she whirled around to notice Simon walking in.

“That man you let run free? He was a local director. Arm torn off or not, he still remains a serious threat in the rituals he knows.”

“How did you-”
“And outright disobeying orders and lying to me Joy. Unacceptable!”

“Well, this is my own way of handling things, you know?”
Simon crossed his arms, looking down at her. “By letting the enemy with dangerous information escape?”

“How could you see all this shit they do to people on a daily basis, and NOT send a more direct message to them?”

“You think killing every last cartel member isn’t potent enough?”
“No. Those are just fodder, you aren’t scaring the higher ups enough to stop! And that’s what I did.”
“You… what?”

She smiled smugly. “He’s delivering a threat to his other superiors that I very well intend on following up on. When I begin to follow up, you can bet every single person who bothered to join these cartels will be shitting their pants and leaving.”

“Perhaps you don’t understand what ‘covert’ means Joy, but in my life, I’m willing to give you this one chance. Informing everyone about who you are isn’t going to work in your advantage you know. With the right mind and equipment, you’re going to be awfully easy to kill.”

“Then I have to work harder with you to outplay them. Ain’t anyone on the world like me.” She flexed her arm, showing off to him.

“There are a lot more people like you than you think Joy. But remember: You’re reaping what you’ve sown.”


Deep into the industrial housing of Romitum, the ex-biomorphed man scurried through the streets, still bleeding badly. Several eyes turned to him as he rushed with the last remnants of adrenaline pumping through his system. Finding a small corner to hide himself in, he dug his finger into his shoulder wound, groaning as he soaked his thumb with blood. Drawing a new sigil on the ground out of it, it slowly dissolved, and a voice spoke directly into his mind.

“What is it?”
“This is Gaston, I was in charge of Bliss production in the new warehouse at Romitum’s industrial district.”

“What is the issue?”
“How-… Nevermind. The entire warehouse is gone, destroyed. Though, I was spared.”
“Spared? Go on…”
“Most of the attack was carried out by a single woman. She was ridiculously strong, fistfought an armored Warden and won. She told me that she was going to find all of us, and tear us all piece from piece.”
“This woman… Her abilities sound familiar. Gaston, for this information, I can forgive you for the loss of the warehouse. Return to our headquarters immediately. We’re going to see if this woman is the person I’ve been looking for.”


Previous|Index|Next

Tales from Congeria: Scott and Ferra 3

An analog clock buzzed, forcing Scott to lurch upwards. He groaned and rubbed his eyes, noticing the few extra blankets atop him. He turned, finding Ferra sitting at his desk, smiling at him.

“Glad to see you didn’t run away in the night.” He pushed the blankets off and stood up, revealing he was still wearing the same clothes from last night. He shuddered, staring at the small stove. “What, you trying to freeze me to death?” He turned it back on, walking towards one of the many file cabinets.

She huffed. “Well, it’d be even more of a mess if you knocked that over in your sleep. Just because I don’t live here doesn’t mean I’m totally oblivious to how that works.”

He pulled a new change of clothes out of one of the cabinets. “It’s electric, and there’s nothing really flammable around. Not sure if you can feel it, but it gets pretty damn cold in here overnight. Now do me a favor and turn away.”

She turned towards the computer monitor for a few minutes.

“All right, you can look back now. Anyways, did you find anything last night?” He walked over to the fridge, opening it up and grabbing a carton of milk.

She looked back, finding him in a new change of similar looking clothes. “Oh yeah, plenty.” She turned back to the computer, sat down, and boot it up. She brought up a large list of jobs. “Apparently lots of people need help. Like here from the Hajji Caves-”

“Are you defective? You really think I’m going to head down there?

She scrunched her face in confusion. “Well, mind explaining?”

“Did you even do research on what these places are?”

“I only looked for jobs, like what you said.”

He groaned. “Out of the way, lemme see what you found…”

She moved out of the way as he leaned over the desk, scrolling through the large list of jobs. “Half of these would probably get us killed on the way there… Sheesh, how did you even pick these?”
She shrugged. “Based on how well I could handle them. I mean, I didn’t take your skills into account, so maybe only you would die on the way there?”

He glared at her. “I’d take that as a threat if you didn’t have the perfect opportunity to kill me last night.” He turned back to the screen, continuing to scroll through the list.

“Ah, here we are. See, just need some night watchmen out in… The Fractured Cities, perfect.”

“What makes that so much easier?”

“Well since you’re too dense to do any research, the Fractured Cities are close, and the only real threats out there are drug-addled maniacs who can’t aim for the life of them.”

She crossed her arms. “Think you can give me a better explanation?”

“You’ll understand what I mean when we get there. Anyways, can you navigate out here?”

“It shouldn’t be too hard, why?”

“Get memorizing and planning. It’s going to be one hell of a trip out there.”

A ding reverberated through the room as he hurried to the other side, pouring himself a cup of coffee. While sipping from the cup, he opened up a different cabinet, revealing a small arsenal of guns and ammo.

“Take as much ammo as you need, and store it… Inside of you or whatever, just out of sight. I’m going to pack my other necessities.”


After packing a duffelbag full of clothes, his stove, and a few easy-heat meals, the duo finally left the office. Ferra dashed ahead with a longer bag slung over her shoulder. Before leaving the building, Scott tacked a short message about how he’s “Out on vacation” to the front desk. Ferra bounded out of the door over to Scott’s transport and stood near the passenger’s door.

“Do you remember what I said about that? It’s government owned. If I start using it for freelance work, they’re going to find and fine me.”

She paused. “Wait, how are we going to get to the job? If we move by foot, it’ll take almost a day!”

“We’re going to walk, take the subway to the edge of the city, and buy a cheap jeep or something. You still have lots of cash, right?”

She flinched, bearing shock on her face. “First, won’t anyone recognize I’m an android or something? Second, what’s a subway? Third, what does my money have to do with anything?”
“You look decently human enough in the face, so it’ll do. Not like people would want to risk reporting what could be an armored human and get sued in response.” He chuckled. “And for the money, we just need to buy a jeep. I’m rather broke, so hopefully you don’t mind footing the bill.”

“This was never a part of the deal…” She pouted.

“Well not like you have a use for that money, right?”

She stared, trying to think of a response.
“I can get more mileage out of it anyways. Now just stick close to me so you don’t get swept up in any crowds.”

The two walked further and further from the old government building, encountering more people on the streets. Ferra stared at everyone nervously, but each simply stared at her for a few moments before continuing to walk past her. If she had a heart, she’d certainly feel it in her throat. Instead every line of code in her AI model screamed at her to find some large coat and hide every mechanical-looking part of her body. She instead shifted her focus to the cityscape itself. Now, dozens of cars were zooming on by the streets, the buildings stretched taller and taller into the skies. Multiple small shops were crammed between the larger apartment buildings, several roads and crosswalks stretching far into the distance. Just above the skyline, plumes of smoke puffed into the sky. The two walked past several more shops, sights, parks, and people until they arrived at a stairway in the sidewalk. Scott soon lead her down into an underground tunnel, where several people were cramped onto a small platform. She moved closer to him.

“So uh, no more walking?”

He turned noticing how she was hugging him.

“Settle down, you’re acting like a child. And yes, no more walking. Just riding the train till we get to the edge of the city.”

“Whats the-”

She lurched back, letting go of Scott, as metal shrieking filled the air. A large vehicle moved in front of the platform, literally screeching to a stop. The doors on it opened, and the crowds moved into it.

“Let’s get going, because it’s going to be a while.

The two stepped into it, Scott grabbing onto a handrail.

“Hey, what’s that?”

“Unless you can fight the train’s speed, I suggest you hold onto one of these.”

The doors to the train closed, and the vehicle lurched forward, knocking Ferra to the ground. Everyone stared at her for a few moments. She scrambled back to her feet, grabbing onto a nearby pole. As the train started to leave the station, she leaned near Scott.

“You don’t think they suspect me, do you?”

“They probably suspect you’re dysfunctional.”

She huffed.

The train moved from stop to stop, and soon Ferra and Scott were able to sit down. Ferra watched as at every stop, numerous people got on and off, the train never really getting any emptier between stops. She noticed how every new group of people had some sort of pattern to it. Some were dirty wearing overalls or other sturdy work clothes, others still in simple uniforms, and others in fancy looking suits. Hours later of riding, Scott finally stood up.

“Get ready to get off, our stop is up next.”

She followed, grabbing ahold of the railing. The train screeched to a halt, and she followed.

Her eyes adjusted quickly to the sunlight, now noticing how wildly different the surroundings were. No longer did skyscrapers and great buildings dominate the landscape, but instead several small shops. Just beyond the shops were lines of small homes, some that reminded her of the housing from the Radi Desert. The streets were also less populated, with more people walking on the sidewalk instead. The only thing dominating the skyline in the distance was a massive wall. Scott began walking towards it.

“This way, let’s pick up the pace.”

Passing by several neighborhoods, the two arrived at the only advanced looking building in the midst of all the simple homes: A massive box-shaped building plugged into the wall, with a few roads running through it and guards watching from atop it. Ferra groaned.

“Customs again, seriously?”
“Hey look, something we can both relate to!” He chuckled. “But thankfully, no. Whoever runs the council cares more about keeping threats out than keeping people in.”

“By the way, since you mentioned them, who runs this council stuff?”

He kept walking as he shrugged. “Some elected officials, I don’t give a damn about them really. They’re just focused on keeping every threat to humanity out of city walls, so I guess they’re doing their jobs.”

“So I just need to convince them Axios is a threat, right?”

“Yeah, sure. Good luck actually getting an audience with them.”

“I appreciate it!”

The two entered the building and walked past a tunnel, Ferra noticing how many cars were stuck in line waiting to get in. Most of the cars were old and banged up, some being pickups with several pieces of furniture strapped in the back. The car in the front was being thoroughly investigated by heavily armored soldiers with an array of devices. The two stopped at a heavy metal door. Moments later, it hissed, several mechanical locks undoing themselves, and the door opened into another metal chamber. They both walked in, the door sealing behind them shortly after they entered. More hissing started up, and a door in front of them opened up, revealing a vast landscape of grass, trees, and tents. Several trucks, old patchy tents, or small houses of wood were set up near the wall and roads. Even more poorly dressed people stood outside their ramshackle homes, cooking or feeding bizarre meats or canned goods. It was as if the neighborhood had continued out of the wall, except of a much lower quality. Scott looked around as Ferra stared at the display. He caught sight of a building set up not too far from the settlement.

“Over here Ferra, get that cash ready.”

“Hold on.” She grabbed him by the arm. “Is this all custom’s fault?”

He stared at the settlement solemnly for a few moments. “It’s a big mix of faults why they’re all stuck there, that’s the most I can say.”

“Well why can’t they all just be let in?”

“Remember what I said about the Council wanting to keep threats out of city walls? And what I mentioned about less than ethical people wanting to bring those threats in yesterday? Those types of people can easily intermingle with crowds simply looking for a better life.  If we can weed out those awful cultists instead of letting them in en masse, we’ll be stopping horrers from entering. Even if the bureaucratic process takes an eternity.”

“You sure know a lot about all this stuff.”

He smirked. “It was once my job, remember?”

The two walked alongside the settlement to a building where a few other people were parked outside. Ferra noticed how some of the more poor looking people handing over keys for cash. As the two entered the building, it was rather clean, one area with a counter leading to a car garage, and another area leading to a small store chock full of canned foods. Scott walked to the counter near the garage, and Ferra followed.

“So, you have some small off-road vehicles available, right?”

The man behind the desk nodded. “How far do you plan on trekking?”

“Something that can get us to and from the fractured cities.”

“I can get you something used for nice and cheap at-”

He slammed his hand on the counter. “I said I want to get back from the cities. I want something in good condition, and I can pay. Right Ferra?”


The jeep was a nice change of pace for Ferra, compared to being cuffed to metal railing in the back of a truck. It was open-topped, but spacious enough in the back to hold Scott’s bags, along with a few cans of gas. Feeling the wind blow through her hair at this speed was both new and enjoyable. He had driven past numerous forested areas through the roads, and had just turned offroad down a dirt path. Soon the green grass grew greener as they passed by small villages completely overrun by plant life. They were stone houses untended, but Ferra still noticed some people living in them. Very soon, she saw crumbling tall buildings in the distance. Soon she realized they were coming up upon an entire decrepit city.

“All right Ferra, your turn to navigate.”

She flinched. “Oh yeah, uh… right. The job said the place we needed to guard was at a hospital. I didn’t expect to have to navigate through this though…”

“Just point the way and I’ll try and find a way around.”

The duo drove through the ruins of the city. Several buildings, ranging from home-sized to a quarter as tall as the skyscrapers, lined the streets, every single one bearing years of neglect. Sometimes their faces were missing, no windows were in place, chunks were collapsed on the road. Still, she managed to catch glimpses of people still living in the ruins, or perhaps hiding. As she continued to direct Scott, they arrived at what Ferra could only imagine to have been the square of this city. There were makeshift farms set up where fountains and plazas once were, surrounded by barbed wire and watched by dirty men holding rifles. They glared at the vehicle as Scott took care to drive far around them. Further down the roads, a large amount of bags full of garbage were piled up ahead. He screeched to a halt, and punched the steering wheel.

“Well shit. Ferra?” He reached into his duffelbag and pulled out her pistol, tossing it to her.
“Keep your finger on the trigger, and watch the rooftops.” He pointed at one of the only intact buildings near the street. “This reeks of a trap.”

“Wait, trap?”

Slinging a shotgun over his back, He hopped out of the car and walked up to the garbage. Kicking at the bag, he felt it was full of sand. He sighed. “Well, that’ll save me some effort.” He began walking back until he glared at the building, noticing a few skeevy men exiting, approaching him with pistols. One of them spoke up.

“All right, we can remove this block for you, but only if-”

He whipped the shotgun over his shoulder and quickly shot one of the men. The other gasped, and fled back to the building. He fired another shot, killing him as well.

“Waste of fuckin ammo.”

Suddenly a bullet struck the concrete near him and he flinched, turning to its origin. Another person with a rifle was pulling back the bolt.

“Ferra, what the fuck?”
He sprinted and dove behind the sandbags. She flinched, and aimed her pistol at the and took aim. She fired, striking the sniper as he fell off the building. Scott peeked over the bags for a few moment, before storming back to the jeep.

“Are you just trying to find the most creative way to kill me or what?”

“I’m sorry just… “ She looked down, reloading the gun. “There could have been a better way to resolve this, right?”

He looked at her dumbfounded for a few moments. “Do you have some misplaced circuits, or what?”

“This isn’t my first time dealing with thugs, you know. Back at the Radi Desert, there were a few people who made threats, but I saw how others were able to straighten them out or throw them in jail. These are the same people that we saw waiting outside of the walls, right?”

“Not even close. Those people are making an effort to try and find a better life. These thugs? Fuck em. The last thing people need in a hellscape like this is more threats in the streets.”

“They could be reformed however, right?”

He laughed. “I’m sorry, when did you get a criminal psychology degree?”

“A what?”

“Look, I’ve done my fair share of research on the Radi desert. It’s a bit easier to keep crime in check because the wildlife and elements are both at odds with you all. You mentioned you fought a demon before, I’m assuming there were cultists with that beast?”

She nodded.
“Well out here, those cultists fuckers are everywhere, trying to make easy prey of the desperate. When nature is actively trying to kill you, it becomes incredibly easy to form bonds with others. Romitum is a prime example of that. Unfortunately for here, there’s little nature trying to kill you. There’s only other men. It’s prime picking grounds for cultists and petty thugs alike.”

“So if this place disappeared, Romitum would cease to work?”

He glared at her. “Just think on what I said a bit more, right? I thought computers were supposed to run faster than human brains.”

He drove effortlessly over the sandbags as she continued to ponder.


Soon after, the duo pulled through a makeshift walling, they pulled into the lot of the hospital. It was a large multi-building campus, with a small police station contained within the walls. Most of the lot was free of debris, and the building itself still retained most of its windows, several wooden planks boarding up broken ones. A large satellite dish was propped on the very top of the building. There were several people walking happily around the lot, chatting or working on various chores. Ferra smiled at the sight as Scott turned off the engine. The people around stared for a few moments at the newcomers before resuming their works.

The inside of the hospital was surprisingly well-kept considering the surrounding buildings. There was still proper lighting, and even some people working to clean the halls. Scott asked one of them about the guard job, and they told him to head near the top floor where the mayor was. Walking through the building, Ferra noticed that many of the rooms had been converted to small living spaces where small groups of two or three people lived together. Even more interestingly was how large spaces were cleared out for hydroponics farms as well. She could only imagine how this place once looked before it was converted into a town. Near the top floor, the mayor’s office was easy to find. Most of the rooms were set up like churches, with three large archstones all placed at different ends of the room. One bearing the sigil of the Caduceus, another bearing the sigil of the Divine Judge, and the last bearing the sigil of the Guardian Angel.

“Gods even reach out here, huh?” Scott thought out loud.

Ferra cocked her head. “Gods?”

He turned to her. “You never seen an archstone before? Long story short, they’re basically how gods communicate with us and get new followers and all that. I’m just more surprised followers managed to transport them out to this hellhole.”

The office itself was just as frugal as the rest of the building, the only special device of note a computer. The mayor sat in a chair behind his desk, and he smiled as them both.

“Thank you for coming all the way out here mister…”

“I’m Scott. What are the details for the job?”

“RIght to the point now, hm?” He leaned back in his chair. “We’ve been having quite a few issues as of late. Normally we can keep out most of the trouble, but a small yet powerful group of cultists come back nightly to perform raids. They kidnap-”

“So you just need us to shoot a few dirty cultists, right? Sounds simple enough. What’s the pay?”
Ferra grimaced at him, before pushing him back. “Let me handle this, you’re being too rude!”

He scoffed. “I don’t need no bot to lecture me on manners…” he muttered under his breath.

“I’m an expert in dealing with cultists and even killed a demon or two in my time, and my partner here is a crack shot too. I promise, we can keep your town safe.”

He sighed. “Thank the gods! I had made several requests to the crusaders, and I thought they’d never respond!”

She rubbed the back of her head. “Yeah, uh, I don’t know who they are. I’ve just killed them in my time.”

His joyous expression turned stern. “Ah, yes then. Still, it’s good to know you have experience. Do you have anything in particular you want as payment? I’m sure we can find something.”

Scott pushed Ferra aside. “We need cash. Is that simple enough?”

He tapped his chin. “I suppose so. Does one grand sound fine?”

“We’ll take it.”

He held up his finger. “Not just yet. My only terms are that for the next three nights, you make sure no citizen is kidnapped or killed. Then you will be payed.”

Scott crossed his arms. “Sounds reasonable enough. Come on Ferra, let’s get set up.”

He left the office, and Ferra waved with a smile to the mayor.


The moon began to rise as Scott and Ferra sat atop the roof of the hospital. Off in the distance, several small lights were dotted among the wastes, the hospital’s lights shining the brightest. Scott had grabbed a chair from down below and sat with a rifle and radio in his lap, and Ferra was staring over the edge of the building. Thanks to her robotic eyesight, she could still see through the darkness, watching with literal machine-like focus. Though even still, hours into her watch, she spoke up.

“What exactly happened here Scott?”

He lurched forward from the chair, shaking the sleep from his eyes.

“What?”

“The cities. Why did the cities end up like this?”

She still stared over the edge as she spoke.

“Guess it wouldn’t hurt to kill some time. As long as you’re focused. You know where demons come from?”

“No?”
“They’re birthed from Hell. If you join some fucked up cult, you can learn how to summon them through sacrifice, but end up being hated by everyone.”
“Yeah I know that, what does that have to do? Did somebody summon a bunch of demons and ruin the place?”

“Worse actually. Remember that army of demons I mentioned? Historians say some cultists actually found a ritual to create a portal directly to hell. They flooded the place and well… You’re looking at the result.”

“That one that I fought before took quite a beating… I don’t think I want to imagine what it’d be like with so many more roaming freely.”

He leaned back. “That’s right. Humanity was nearly wiped out, and so was android-kind as well.”

She lost her focus on searching for a few moments. “Excuse me, you let what happen?”

“Perhaps you don’t understand this, but demons get stronger after every human they eat. So androids were drafted en masse as our vanguard.”

“It makes sense that they’d want to leave humans then.”

He laughed. “Well, too bad you all had a terrible lack of foresight in establishing your own dictator.”

“I’m still going to fix that mistake, I swear!”

He chuckled and let out a yawn. “Yeah yeah, let’s just make the money first, all right?”

“Why do people even live out here anyways? There’s gotta be better way to make money in Romitum, right?”

“I can tell you this from experience: Sometimes, it’s worth giving up that security for a feeling of independence. You saw how slowly they run customs. How slow do you think they run the rest of things in the city?”

“Well those trains are pretty fast…”

“If I knew how to repair you, I wouldn’t be out here looking for bounties you know.”

“Hold on-” She drew her pistol. “Those things don’t look natural at all. I got around five… no ten! Ten armed men with 4 strange looking beasts alongside them!”

Scott shot up from his seat, grabbing the radio. “We’ve spotted them. Flood the place with light!”

Tales from Congeria: Joy and Simon 3

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It had only been a few hours after Joy had finished her training. Simon had guided her to her proper sleeping quarters in the barracks, and she had crashed in bed. Still geared up in her outfit, all the caffeine of the previous night had faded from her system. Her scratches and cuts had all been disinfected and bandaged. Only the sound of a ticking wall clock could be heard as she snoozed softly. Unfortunately, Simon kicked open the door, cranking his microphone up.

“Joy, get up, it’s time to eat!”

She lurched up, tweaking her wound. She quickly placed her hand on the bandage.

“Gods Simon…” She let out a yawn, glancing at the clock. “Can’t you give me a few more hours? Ugh…” She stared down at her bandaged wound.

He shook his head. “First, you were the one who chose to take the test so late. Second, there could be numerous situations where you need to be up and active, regardless of sleep.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, hope that means I won’t need to bother changing.” She hopped out of bed onto her feet. “Hopefully ‘combat situations’ won’t mean there’s no painkillers or anything like that.”

Simon walked to the doorframe, turning back to her. “Just follow me and you can get something at the mess hall.”

She followed him down the silent halls of the fortress, all still as well lit as they were the previous night. There were no windows anywhere she could see, just a hall lined with doors to other sleeping quarters. Opening up a door at the end, she stepped outside to a small yard. Massive steel walls surrounded the area, and she could still hear the sound of bombs going off in the distance. To her left was a small door connected right into the wall, and a same one to her right. Across the dusty ground, Simon pointed to a smaller looking building in the center of the yard.

“Over there, just head on over and eat whatever you can, and socialize with the others. Now if you excuse me, I got business to attend to. I’ll be back in around thirty to begin your training.”
He walked off, to the left, entering the door. She marched forward, brazenly pushing open the doors to the mess hall. She froze as she saw the sight: There were quite a few other soldiers in here, way more than she expected to be in special operations. They all glared out of her, her showy outfit clearly feeling incredibly out of place to all these uniform geared soldiers. She slinked towards the food. So much for a small handful of oddjobs… Last time I’ll trust the internet for facts. The only other thing that broke her expectations was the quality of food: They weren’t MREs, but actual food. Eggs, bacon, sausages, assorted grain cereals, milk, and so on. She stacked a hefty plate for herself and turned around, the reality of her standing out hitting her once more. Most of the tables were full, and she was thinking of just muscling herself into one of them until somebody waved to her. The man was outfitted significantly different from the other soldiers, wearing what looked like equipment a pilot would wear. She shuffled on over as the  tall man offered her a seat. She sat, placed her tray down, and the man sat across from her. A few others moved over to the table as well: A woman wearing a camo jacket similar to Simon’s, A woman wearing more simple looking kevlar but with a bizarre visor above her eyes, and a terrifying man who was wearing an equally terrifying exoskeleton. The man who invited her spoke up.

“Joy, yes?” He held his hand towards her. She shook it. “Good to see another oddjob here, my name is Paul.”

She sighed. “You’re all the oddjobs? Still doesn’t make me feel any more out of place.”

“Maybe a bit of proper armor would help?” Spoke the woman with the headset. “By the way, my name is Maria. Pleased to meet you.”
Joy nodded. “Yeah yeah, Simon already gave me that talk.”

The jacketed woman spoke. “First, my name is Annie. Second, take what little advice he gives to serious heart. Unless you got in here for having indestructible skin.” She chuckled to herself.

She moaned. “Little? He won’t stop yapping to me about everything I need to do.”

Paul chuckled. “I had a feeling you’d be a special case. By the way, him?” He motioned towards the man with the exoskeleton. “His name is Rex. He’s the most experienced of the bunch here, but he’s mute. Years of service taking its toll, you know.”

Rex observed her from across the table.

“Anyways…” Paul said, “How’d you get scouted out?”
She smiled. “Oh, you’re talking to somebody who’s pure of heart here!” She pointed to the insignia on her abdomen. “Worked hard and pledged to the God of Righteous Fury, beat that dumb test of Simon’s, and now I’m his partner!”

The table froze, staring wide-eyed at her. “Impressive, I know?”

“He what.” Was all that could come out of Paul’s mouth.

“How did you guys get past his test anyways. I mean, maybe Rex over there could probably force it-”

“Joy” spoke Maria. “That test is a farce to weed out lunatics who think they can just brute-force their way into the crusaders. We’re normally scouted out and hand-picked by him. And no, Rex can’t force it open with strength alone.”

Her smile melted away. “Wait, what?”

“Honestly, the more shocking part is that Simon actually stayed true to keep you as his partner.” Said Paul. “He’s been operating alone for as long as I’ve served here. Hell, we rarely even see him.”

Joy’s smile returned in full force and she began laughing uncontrollably. “HOO! So you just mean I was the only one worthy for him too? Figures!”

Annie laughed in turn. “Simon’s the one I’m more amused at, that he’d stay true to his word even for that farce of a test! How’d you do on the first exam anyways?”

Joy leaned back. “Yeah easy stuff, those demons were pretty easy to deal with.”

“How’d you do against the vanguard spawn though?” Annie asked.
Joy paused for a few moments. “Oh easy as well-”

The rest of the table burst into laughter, Joy’s smug smile slowly melting away. Even Rex bore a great smile. “What’s the deal?”

Paul snorted. “Vanguard spawn aren’t used in training. You’re full of shit Joy!”

Joy banged the table. “What’s the big deal, what are they? There was nothing about them in my guide!”   
Marie sniffled before calming down. “Joy, just pray in your career as a crusader you NEVER have to see them. If they ever do show up, the spawn are the least of your worries.”

“If you all think I’m not qualified for this, hey I still managed to pass Simon’s challenge! That’s something I got above you all!”

Rex suddenly pushed everyone’s trays out of the way and put his mechanized arm on the table. He stared at her directly, setting up in an arm-wrestling position. She smirked.

“Tell you what, use both of those arms of yours. You’ll need em.” She smacked her elbow onto the table, grasping onto his. She heard gears whirring hard as he strained himself and his exoskeleton to try and budge her arm to no avail. The other oddjobs stared in amusement as Rex’s face turned red with effort. Joy used her free arm to smugly scoop a portion of her breakfast into her mouth. He suddenly stood up, taking his second arm and began pushing against Joy’s. She felt her arm budge somewhat, and she strained to fight against the force of Rex’s. Several seconds passed until Rex finally let go. He took a step back and nodded.

“I think you’ve somewhat impressed him Joy” Paul laughed.

She began wharfing down the rest of her meal as the others sat around the table once more.

“I’m also curious,” Asked Annie, “who’s your assigned trainer?“

“Assigned?” She swallowed a mouthful of food. “Didn’t you all train with Simon?”

“I guess it’s to be expected for his partner.” Responded Marie. “Didn’t you remember what we said about him barely interacting with us?”

Annie leaned over the table. “Just take my advice Joy. You’re getting a once-in-an-eternity deal to work with him one-on-one. Simon didn’t become the head of the special division for no reason.”

It’s because he founded it!” Interjected Maria. “He isn’t even pledged to the God of Crusades from what I understand. Not to any god either. He’s that good.”

Joy swallowed a mouthful of food. “If training is gonna be like that demon fighting stuff, it’s gonna be a cinch! A few scratches won’t kill me. Besides, what can you guys do that I can’t?”

Paul chucked. “You can stop overpraising yourself. Just take care, all right?”


    “KEEP ON PUSHING, YOU STILL HAVE HALF A MILE TO GO!”
Every single muscle in Joy’s body throbbed and burned. Throughout the day Simon’s “training” almost classified as abuse, ranging from pushups with one-ton blocks of steel on her back, swimming with large weights strapped to her, to now working to push an APC uphill. For the entire push up-hill, Simon constantly barked at her over and over, having her blood boil along with the rest of her body. Half a mile later and she gave the APC one final shove, panting and soaked in sweat. She flexed her arm and smiled at it, at the very least something could provide her with good exercise. Her smile faded as Simon began walking over towards her. If only this exercise didn’t nearly kill her. She sat down onto the ground.

“Why are you taking a break? That thing has no fuel and it needs to get back to base, stat!”

“Hey, give me a break! Seriously, I’m already overqualified as it is! Send me after some of those demon-selling bastards or something already!”
“And what gave you that impression?”
“I already met the other oddjobs! I’m way out of their league!”

He paused for a few moments. “If you really feel that way, would you like me to move you to advanced combat training?”

Her eyes lit up. “YES! Yes please, just anything that can end with this mundane workout crap!”

Simon began marching away. “That APC still needs to get back to the base. Get pushing!”


    Her body still burning from the earlier training, Joy could still barely contain herself as Simon lead her to a training arena. It was a large city-block sized room filled with small city buildings, roads, and even broken down cars scattered across them. Simon lead her through a door entering into the end of the arena.

“So this one is simple enough for even you to understand. Paint rounds will be used for this, and if you’re hit, you’re dead.” He pointed to a tall building off at the other end. “Over there in that building is your target. There’s civilians trapped in the basement guarded by a few cartel members. You need to get in there, kill every last cartel member and demon, and get the civilians out of there. You got it?”

“You got it. It’ll be a cinch, trust me!”
“I haven’t gotten that far with you yet Joy. Show me what you’ve got.”

The moment he left the arena, he yelled over the intercom: “START”.

She immediately bolted forward towards the building, bounding over the rubble and scrap that blocked the streets. She felt something peck at her forehead and a loud buzzer went off.

“You’re dead Joy.”

She skidded to a halt. She felt her head, and felt paint on it. “What? Where was he? How did he-”

She glanced around and looked up, and saw an all too familiar figure. Rex was standing atop one of the buildings with a rifle in hand. The intercom spoke up.

“Your enemy isn’t going to face you head on. You have to think and be resourceful Joy!’

“Fine, now I know! Give me a re-match!”

    All day, Joy tried over and over to best Rex to no avail. Every single time she tried to get close to that building, he was always one step ahead of her. She tried taking cover, weaving through buildings, everything she could to get closer and closer. Each and every time, the moment she made it close to the building, she always got struck from where she least expected it. She was gasping for breath by the last attempt, and Simon spoke over the loudspeaker once more. “That’s enough training for today Joy. You need to get something to eat before you crash and burn.” She slogged her way back to the entrance of the arena, met by Simon. She glared daggers at him as he crossed his arms.

“So do you still think you’re overqualified Joy?”

She angrily shook her head.

“I will at least admit, your persistence is definitely a positive quality. Not sure if it’s because of stupidity or will, but it’s admirable. After dinner, meet me back here, I think I have a better way of training you with this.


    Joy took her time eating dinner, taking time to rest her arm every time she ate a forkful of food. Her limbs felt totally deflated from the days’ activities, and she groaned to herself thinking of what else Simon still had in store. She stretched out her legs, and noticed Paul had sat across from her, still with a smile on your face.

“So what do you want? Care to rub in Rex’s victory over me a bit more?”

“Actually, I’m more asking how training went today.”
She poked at her food. “Being used as an overglorified tow truck for a few miles wasn’t fun at all, nor was being humiliated by Rex. I swear someday I’m going to get close enough to knock every tooth out of his head.”

“Quite the competitive spirit I see you have. A bit different from me when I first came.” He kicked his legs up on the table. “Joy, do you know where I came from before I was scouted for special operations?”

She glanced up from her food. “Dunno, why does it matter?”
“I used to work for search and rescue, a pretty big name in it too as well. That’s how I got these.” Suddenly two massive wings sprouted from his back. Joy jolted back, nearly falling out of her seat.

“What kind of rescue agency were you working for?”

The wings retracted into his back. “Several, actually. The wings are from the God of Guardian Angels. You do civil service, you get those wings in turn. Only downside is you have to commit your life to civil service. I’m still doing it here, to an extent.” He chuckled.

“So you got big fancy wings, what does that have to do with advice?”
“I managed to get scouted and selected to join the crusaders special ops because I was one of the best in my field, and my wings prove it. Being the best in my field wasn’t enough for special operations however, and and it ruined me for my first month here. Going from top of the class to utter garbage isn’t a fun feeling, but it was a necessary one.”

She huffed. “No shit it ain’t fun. So what?”

“What I’m saying is that it helped changed my perspective a bit. I’d be doing greater work, but I needed to understand that I wasn’t the best in order to adapt. Hell, how I go about my work hasn’t changed much, it’s just I learned how to better cope with gunfire, and became remarkably better at breaching locked rooms.” He laughed.

“Aaand?” She stared at him quizically.

“Sheesh you are dense… What I mean is that how you go about well… Brutally beating the crap out of whatever you find?”

She nodded.

“Yeah, uh… That. You can still keep what you know to best do that, but you need to be adaptive and resourceful to the new situations you’ll encounter.”

“Hold on… Simon said something like that once before now that you mention it.”

“Well, take it to Simon directly then. He IS your trainer, as brutal as he’s going to be.”

She stood up, stretching out.

“I think I should be good enough as long as he doesn’t force me to do heavy lifting. I’ll try giving your advice a shot.”

He waved goodbye. “There’s a lot of stuff only your trainer knows. Ask if you’re confused about anything!”


    Joy returned to the arena, where he had a selection of submachine-guns and pistols out on a table. He turned to face her.

“Well, you’re here a bit sooner than I expected.”

She flinched. “Excuse me?”

“That’s not important anymore. Now as for a better way for training you we’re obviously going to return to basic combat scenarios, all while still working on your stubborness and endurance. For the time being, it’ll just be you and me, and I’m going to hammer in those points you need to know-”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I actually have a question.”

He paused, crossing his arms. “Go ahead then.”

“It’s my resourcefulness you want me to work on, right?”

He nodded. “Glad to see you’re becoming a bit more observant. It’s one of many issues, but one of the most important regarding your blessing. Your strength allows you to carry likely any weapon short of a tank’s cannon, and we could fit a hell of a lot of armor on you to little to no issue. Using-”
“Sheesh, slow down. And cut it with turning me into a walking tank thing, I don’t want to look like some kind of killer android. You saw against demons how well I can fare at the test, right?”

Simon grabbed one of the pistols from the table. “So how much faith do you have in your God then? To protect you from one of these?” He aimed it at her shoulder.

“Go ahead, try me!”

A crack echoed through the arena as he fired the pistol. The bullet crashed into her shoulder and she let out a yelp, flinching. The projectile, however, had flattened as it hit her shoulder, bouncing to the floor below. She stared down at it and grinned, rubbing her shoulder.

“See, armor be damned!”

“Not exactly. That was merely a 9mm, but it’s probably the most most grunts can afford. Now what would you do if a sniper had a scope trained on your head?”

“That’s what this training is for, is it not?”

He nodded. “Getting better Joy, getting better. It’s your decision on how you want to fight, but if you can make it work, I’ll accept it. As for the last of training tonight, you just need to disarm and capture me. And since you proved your durability, I’ll be using live ammunition, nothing lethal.”

She cracked her knuckles. “You shitting me? Piece of cake!”

He held up his hand to her. “You want to learn how to be resourceful, this is how you’re going to learn. When I sound the buzzer, you can begin.”

He grabbed a few pistols and a sub-machine gun from the table, tucking them in his coat. He strolled away into a building several meters away from where Joy stood. The buzzer sounded, and she dashed forward, crashing through the doors of the building. She paused and glanced around, before feeling a few cracks and stinging shots on her bandadged wound. She screamed.

“Never charge through a building like that Joy!” Yelled Simon from the opposite side of the building. She turned towards him as he disapperead around a doorway and she charged forward. She headed into the doorway and noticed it was a stairway. She began running up floor after floor. Coming around a corner, she saw him aiming the sub-machine gun down the stairwell, and he opened fire. Several bullets stung across her body, feeling like several pins crashed into her. She fell backwards, tumbling down the stairs.

“Charging head-first isn’t being resourceful Joy! Using your strength you could have just scaled the wall of the building you know!”

He disappeared further up and she heard a door open furher up. She dusted herself off and hurried up, now on top of the roof of the building. She noticed Simon aiming the sub-machine gun at her, and she quickly hid back in the doorway.

“Good, now think Joy! How are you going to approach me?”

She glanced around, and noticed something: The door. She appeared from the doorway, ripping the thing off the hinge, and tossed it towards him. He rolled out of the way, but noticed she had closed most of the distance between the two of them. She didn’t realize it, but from behind his mask he smiled. She ran forward to grab him, but he kicked backwards, unleashing another hail of bullets upon her. She stumbled backwards guarding her face with her arms.

“The nice thing about your strength is that you can use almost anything around you to your advantage Joy. Remember that!”

He ran to the edge of the roof and pulled out a grappling hook from his coat. Quickly hooking it to the edge of the roof, he repelled himself down, kicking throw a window to a lower floor of the building. She glanced over, almost ready to claw her way down, but paused, and smiled as a new idea hatched. She instead reared her fist back and slammed it into the ground, smashing a hole through the roof. She fell down a floor, and continued to do this until she landed in the same room, staring face to face with Simon. She smiled and charged forward.

“Smart, had I been anyone else that would have seriously thrown me off guard!”

He fired another spray of bullets until his magazine clicked empty. She was still charging forward, guarding her face.

“You’re getting used to this feeling fast, hm?”

He drew a pistol and fired several times at her legs. She stumbled at the pain and tripped as he slid out of the way. She crashed into the wall, dazed and stinging all over from the bullets. From the dust, she still stood back up, trying to ignore the constant stinging. Her body was red in multiple spots all over, and she was visibly grimacing.

“That’s quite the will you have Joy. But it’s a ballance of will, strategy, and technique that guarantees you a spot in special operations. Show me!”

This time, he charged forward towards her, drawing his boot knife. Before she could react, he swept her feet, knocking her to the ground, and sliced the knife accross her bandages. She screamed.

“What the fuck? That’s no fair at all!”
“There’s nothing unfair about exploiting obvious weakness Joy!”

Her body now burning all over from the bullets and holding a hand to her gash, she felt absolutely enraged. Simon had leapt out of a window, taking cover behind a car to reload his sub-machine gun. He stared back out the window, waiting for her.

“Shit…” He muttered to himself. “Joy, do you need medical attention? Joy?”

He waited, and still nothing. Pulled another grapple from his coat and threw it at the window. He quickly climbed up, finding her limp body.

“Gods…” He ran over and kneeled near her. “I need a medical-”
All of a sudden she rose to life, grabbing ahold of him in a bearhug. She sneered.

“I didn’t expect you to be the caring type, but you’re caught!”
She heard a slight chuckle. “Clever, but I wouldn’t recommend using that on any opponent Joy. They don’t have concern for your well being. Plus, they could still have an ace up their sleeve.”

She felt a prick in her arms, and looked over, she noticed he had lifted his arms and placed them near her’s. In just a few moments, they went completely numb, Simon effortlessly stepped out of her grip.

“Now it’d only be fair if I could use a trick only I could know, yes? I doubt any old grunt would know anesthetic would work on you. By the way, you’ll start feeling them within the hour, by the way.”

She groaned. “Dammit… And I was so close.”

“On the contrary Joy. With all the years of experience under my belt, I’m prepared for every situation the world can throw at me.”

She huffed.

“Well, looks like this method of training works well. You can return to your quarters. We’ll start off mornings with heavy endurance training, and finish afternoons with live fire combat training. Understood?”

“More of that APC pushing crap? At least I can get a bit of a kick out of this stuff. Why can’t we do more of this?”

“I said, do you understand Joy?”

“Understood” she grumbled.


Previous|Index| Next

Tales from Congeria: Ferra and Scott (2)

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The sun was blazing in the west, most of the bustle of the settlement calming down as Scott stood outside of the bar. Several moments passed until Ferra emerged from the entrance, towing along three dufflebags. He crossed his arms.

“You know, what possessions does a droid even need?”
She shrugged. “No clue, but this is mostly just ammo and scrap. That’s all I really need out here.”

He lowered his head into his hand. “Sheesh, you wanna make going through customs a pain in the ass or something?”
She gave an inquisitive look. “Customs? What’s that?”

“Dammit… Look, whatever you can’t keep in your pockets… or wherever you stow your personal items, don’t bring it along. I only really have authorization to bring in robots from outside the city.”
“You still haven’t said what customs-”

“You’ll learn soon enough. Now unless you want us both to be arrested, just stow away those bags here. We can pick them up if we ever return here.”
“Wait, if we return here?”
He began walking away, motioning his hand. “I’ll get my transport over to the north end of town.”

Now with a few boxes of ammo, a sizeable stack of cash, and only a few grenades into her frame, she waved to the bartender.

“I’ve left about a year’s worth of cash for rent. Just keep an eye on my stuff, all right?”

He silently nodded, waving back. She smiled and hurried out the door. As she walked through the thinning crowds of her settlement, she took her time to wave to each one, as everyone returned the action to her. She stared back at the line of archaic homes for a few moments, watching all the people return home from a long day of work. She turned facing the northern exit of it, seeing Scott leaning against a small armored vehicle. It looked something like an armored truck, but more angular and stubby, along with treads instead of wheels.

“I’ll make the most of this opportunity, and then I’ll be back soon, I swear to you all.”

She ran towards him, waving her arms. “Hey, let’s get a move on!”

He glanced towards her. “Took you long enough. Now get in the back.”

She skidded to a stop. “Hey, why can’t I sit in the front?”
“I ain’t a taxi, nor would it be a good idea to have what many could see as dangerous cargo riding up front. Speaking of which, that revolver of yours.” He pointed at her gun still displayed on her hip. She frowned, pulling it from her holster and handing it to him. He took a look at it.

“Interesting… You made this yourself?”
Her face somewhat brightened. “Yeah, actually. From whatever parts I could cobble together. Something special to me and cand take out the biggest of mutants that crawl around here, you know?”

He chuckled as he slipped the pistol into his jacket pocket. He walked behind the transport flinging open the doors. The rear of the vehicle was nothing but smooth metal. No seats, no seatbelts, only some railing at the front, a small grate connecting to the front seat, and a few bulky metal cabinets with a large padlock on front.

“Ehm… Isn’t this going to be unsafe?”

“You don’t get how I usually work yet, do you?”

She climbed into the back, grabbing hold of the railing. A door slammed from the front, and he peeked through the small grate. A small hatch opened up and he slid restraints through the hole.

“Oh yeah, just put these on over the railing. You are supposed to be my prisoner.”

“Who’s going to be checking anyways?”
“Like I said before, customs. Plus, it’ll be a decent seatbelt. Now power down or something, it’s gonna be a while till we reach the borders.”

The engine of the vehicle rumbled to life as she clipped the restraints around the bar. Her body then fell limp, the lights dimming out from her eyes.

The transport moved slowly through the desert, sticking close to the few rivers that still ran through it. He passed by settlements, often getting a few looks from passerbys traveling between them. Every single one of them wore patchy sweat-stained clothes and was armed in some form or another, be it a spear made of scrap or a large machine gun. Often times he’d drive through herds of Radi Beasts simply drinking from the river, witnessing the movement of the buglike Desert Stalkers in the distance as well.

The sands and rivers came to an end at the sight of stone. The next stretch of land all looked as if all organic material had been peeled off, leaving only a rocky service. He took care to drive far from the many ravines and boreholes that gashed the landscape. Not a single creature was in sight, only the sound of wind dominating the area.

Hours more of driving through, and Scott arrived at the end of a rough dirt path. Following it for a few hours more lead to the first sightings of vegetation. The path moved over and through numerous grassy hills, the sights of small forests off in the distance. Birds were now flying overhead, some of regular sizes, and scattering when much larger ones flew by. The path winded between and around each forest, and Scott knew well of what manner of demi-breeds and beasts populated them. He sighed when the dirt path finally hit asphalt. A long, multi-laned road stretched and winded far away in opposite directions. To the side of it were railroad tracks. Scott pressed the gas pedal further as his transport sped up, and he heard a clank from behind. He nearly jumped out of his seat until he remembered Ferra was back there.

“Hey, what happened? Ugh, that hurt, and I’m all sore you know!”
He glanced back at the grate, turning his sight back to the road.

“Well blame that on the person who programmed you, not my driving.”

She huffed. “Well, are we almost there? How long has it been?”
“Two or three hours, I dunno. We’re finally on some proper roads, so we’ll be there soon.”

“Proper roads?”

He laughed to himself. “Sorry, I forgot you all don’t have asphalt out there. How the hell can anybody stand all that desert walking anyways?”
“What makes a proper road better for walking anyways, this thing seemed to get you to me fine enough!”
He sighed. “I’m hoping your model supports direct information uploading or something, else you’ve got a lot of learning to get done.”

“I don’t think so. How different is everything from where I was?”

The van screeched to a halt, and she jolted forward with it. She tumbled across the floor.

“HEY, what’s the big deal?”
“Remember when I said we had customs to go through? Well, we’re there, but we still gotta wait.”
“You have to what.

The engine stopped as she heard the front door open and shut. Sunlight flooded the back of the transport as he opened the doors. He climbed in, unlocking her restraints.

“Well, you want to know how different we are out here, just hop on out and feast your eyes.”

She followed him out, and caught sight of numerous green fields and scattered trees. She stared long at them until Scott grabbed her, turning her to face the forward. She stared in wonderment at what it was: A very long line of large trucks, larger than Scott’s transport, lined up all to pass through a massive wall. It stretched onwards for miles, curving around with whatever could be inside. Several weapons platforms were mounted atop of it, each larger than anything she had ever seen. If anything, the walls reminded her more of Axios.

“Is that giant wall customs?”

He smacked his hand on his forehead. “That’s a pretty fucking stupid name for a wall, ain’t it? No, customs is why we’re stuck in line. Do you know why walls are built?”

“For safety?”
“To keep things out. And there’s lots of things less than ethical people would like to bring in that the rest of us want out. That’s what customs is for: To make sure that shit stays out.”
Her eyes widened. “Like demons?”
“That’s a good example, yeah. Thank the gods you catch on quick.”

“I fought a demon before I met you, ya know. It paid super well too, so maybe we should look for those jobs once you’re done with this customs stuff.”

He laughed. “I’ve already decided against joining the Crusaders long ago. Demanding a lifetime of service isn’t very nice, you know? Maybe Gods would get more followers if they cut that crap out.”

He turned and met face to face with Ferra looking puzzled.

“You know about demons, but you don’t know about fucking Gods?”

She shook her head.

“You pledge your ‘faith’ to some being, they give you abilities or powers in turn as long as you follow their contracts. Easy enough to understand?”

“I guess. But what’s faith-”
“Good, you understand, no more details, all right?”

The line moved forward somewhat.

“Now hop back in, I gotta scoot us forward a bit.”

Re-igniting the engine, he moved forward the few inches of ground before turning it off once more. He hopped behind, throwing the back doors open, and sat across from her.

“Now there’s one thing that HAS been eating my mind a bit. You say you’re from Axios, right?”
She nodded.

“Why the hell did you want to leave that utopia you all created for yourself?”

She looked shocked. “Well, I was only active inside the city for a few minutes, but I was told something by well, my manufacturer. He said that our home, Axios, is needed to be liberated. Give me a second…”

She stared blankly for a few moments.

“Ah yes, it was about our leader, Tronus. Years ago, he constructed an overmind, a massive device that would direct all of our kind’s actions so we could work at maximum efficiency. He used it for control rather than efficiency however, using it to scan the populace’s mind for any dissenting thoughts, and mind-wiping any android they caught.”

He scoffed.

“Hey, don’t be rude! Anyways, because everything was scanned and regulated, my manufacturers constructed me from spare parts by getting into workplace accidents and using their own lost parts to construct me. Then they sent me and several other androids with a mission: Get help to liberate us from whoever you can find.”

He snorted. “For how crafty they were, didn’t seem like they were too specific with their instructions.”
“They’re likely mind-wiped for what they did though…”
“Serves them and your kind right, to be perfectly honest.”

She banged the wall. “What’s your problem, seriously! I just wanna help my people!”

“Well, your people weren’t so nice in turn to us!” He lowered his hands into his head. “You know, a long time ago, before we had these walls, all of humanity was nearly killed by an army of demons. And because your kind was sent to fight with millions of others of humans, they decided they had a right to abandon us. The Radi Desert used to be some lush forestland a long time ago too, you know.”

She stared, some anger brimming in her eyes.

“Since you’re still a bit slow to pick up things, you know who orchestrated that abandonment? None other than that Tronus. You all fell into his trap, and your kind is suffering the consequences.”

“But… There’s still time to repair relations, right?”

He snorted again. “Three hundred years of isolation, and you think you alone can break it? Besides, remember our deal?”

She looked down at the ground. “I should have searched elsewhere for help…”

“Well, at least working with me is going to be better than being stuck in that desert. Be happy with what you at least got now.”

He left the back and slammed the doors, climbing back into the driver’s seat. The sat silently between each other as Scott inched closer and closer to the wall’s gate.

“Scott, is all that hatred why you signed up to hunt androids?”

He let out an energetic laugh. “If that were the reason, every single person behind these walls would be signing up. Not like there’s any more androids to really deal with. Remember that whole three hundred years thing?”

“Well, then why did you sign up?”
He paused. “That’s enough for questions now, yeah? Put on those restraints, we’re finally in customs.”

She bounced up, quickly cuffing herself to the railing. The engine stopped and she heard faint chatter from outside. A few minutes later, the back doors opened. Scott and two terrifyingly armored men were staring at her.

“She was probably trying to escape to deliver sensitive information to Axios or something.” Scott said. “I was sent out to quickly grab and return her to her designated reservation.”

The men in the armor stared for a few more moments before slamming the door. Scott climbed back in and started the engine again.

“Did you just lie about me?”
“Not like it matters. Like I said, unnecessary department. Not like anyone is going to log what I said or anything.”

“You keep saying how nobody cares about you, but everyone seems still afraid of us?”
“Yeah, and people believe it still. It’s just a good thing the government doesn’t.”

Several minutes of being locked in the back, with several points of stopping and starting, Ferra finally heard the engine turn off. She heard the front door open, and soon the back doors were flung open once more. Scott walked in, undoing her restraints.

“Take a few moments to soak in everything, but then I want those restraints back on. We’re almost done with them.”

Taking a few steps out, her eyes adjusting to the light, she froze.

She was staring at an asphalt road with an endless amount of cars zooming on past her. Beyond that, several massive buildings of steel, concrete, and glass stood, lined up side by side along the street. Even beyond them, several even taller buildings stood, stretching up into the sky. She spun around, finding herself surrounded by infrastructure and humans. Roads, streetlights, cars parked side by side, people walking by without fear, dressed up in t-shirts, shorts, or dress clothing. High into the sky many flocks of small birds flew, and even more perched atop some of the tallest buildings she could see.

“So uh… How big is this Romitum place?”

“Well over a few thousand square miles, all interconnected by roads and train. I’d like to see that junk heap Axios compare to this. Now come on, restraints on once more.”
He turned her around and placed the restraints on, moving with her towards a nearby building. It was completely made of concrete without any windows, looking dim and muddy compared to the other buildings near it. When she was tugged inside, it shared the same looks: A dingy reception area with a few fluorescent lights, badly beaten couches, and a small desk with a lazy looking man behind it. Scott banged the counter and the man suddenly jumped up.

“I finally got our straggler. Cross her off the list and head on home.”
“Took you fuckin long enough Scott.” He began typing rapidly on a keyboard for a few moments, finishing by tapping the enter button.

“All done, just call me up when you find another one. Thanks.”

The man hurried out the door. Ferra stared at him as he left, turning back to Scott.

“What’s that all about?”

“He’s the only other employee working in this division. I’m just doing him a favor by keeping this place seemingly productive enough.”

He tugged her further into the building and walked down a few flights of stairs. Most of the walls were very messy, some peeling with paint. The few pipes that still ran alongside the wall were rusty, several segments cracked or flat out shattered. He took her down a dim concrete hallway and turned into a doorway. The room they entered looked something like a miniaturized home. A portable stove, coffee machine, fridge, and pile of blankets were all shoved in one corner, right next to a well-cleaned tub and sink. Not too far off from that little living area was a large cabinet. In front of that was a large man-sized table with several power tools scattered atop of it. On the opposite side of the room was a large desk with a blocky computer monitor and an absolute mess of paper spilt everywhere. Hanging next to the desk was a large cork board with photos, forum posts, and printouts of news articles all pinned to it, a few articles and pictures crossed out. He undid her restraints and sat down at his desk, booting up the computer.

“Feel free to glance around, just don’t touch anything, all right?”

His computer hummed to life as he began typing away. Ferra’s eyes locked on the cork board. The photos contained vague silhouettes of blocky-looking bodies. Her eyes widened at another article featuring a photo in a snowy landscape, the photo of what was clearly an android being displayed. A location known as the “Sanctum Mountains” she read.

“You like my handiwork?” He said as he continued typing away. “Most of the people working here were only worried about internal android threats, so I lack an intel department you know.” He typed a few more things in. “So now it’s up to me to find any bots to give everyone reason why this very small branch should still be funded.”

“Well, then why don’t you find a new job or something? This seems like a lot of work.”
He let out a snort as he continued his typing. “I spent my entire life trying to get this job, I ain’t giving it up for some third rate clerk job somewhere in the slums.”

“You seem to have plenty of experience and a truck, so why not bounty hunting?”
“Correction, the state owns that truck. The only thing I can call mine in this office is that fridge, stove, food, and my guns.”
“So can’t you buy your own stuff-”

“If I could, I wouldn’t need to strike a deal with you now, would I?”

He stopped typing. “Anyways, all those reports regarding you are now closed, according to the state, you’re tucked away in some reservation up north.” He turned towards her and stood up. “Now as for bounties, finding them is gonna be your job, I’ve done all the work I need to today. You at least know how to use a computer?” He presented her the chair. She walked over, sitting in front of the screen. Scott leaned over, clicking on a browser icon and opening a window.

“You can use this to go find some postings online. Don’t bother looking for inner city jobs because well, you’re a fukin android. Just try to find any job outside of the walls and you’ll be set.”

She stared at him. “Where exactly do I start? How do I even use this thing?”
He briefly demonstrated how to type and use the mouse, clicking on boxes around the window and typing. “As for where to start, you’re the expert on bounties here.”

The evening flew by as Scott ate a small meal and slept in front of his small electric stove. Ferra carefully crept over, turning off the stove, and tossed a few extra blankets atop of him. She returned to the computer, going through several of the old sites in Scott’s history. Most of them were forum boards used by people who lived outside of the city walls, ranging from farmers just outside of the walls, others from people who set up homes in multiple points around the world. Some in a more mountainous region, some living around the edges of forests, she even noticed a few referring to settlements in the Radi Desert. She looked up a map of the continent of Congeria itself, and gasped at the size of it. Off to the very west was the city of Axios, still taking up a fair amount of space, but the rest of the land was massive, varied beyond what she thought. The Radi Desert awkwardly crammed between grasslands, the complete lack of any green east of it, the long stretching plains, the mountains to the south and jungle beyond the range, ruined cities stretching eastward all the way to a massive gash in the earth. She printed it out, grabbing a pen. When it finished, she tabbed over to forum posts she found, and quickly marked their locations on the newly printed map. She sighed as she closed every tab and powered off the computer. She sat down next to the snoozing Scott and smiled at him.

“Maybe I can make this deal work out after all.”

Tales from Congeria: Ferra and Scott REDUX (1)

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Sunlight beamed down onto the endless expanse of stone, sand, and dead-looking trees that made up the Radi Desert. Far off in the west stood a massive construct of steel, thousands of square miles in size. From Axios, this country of machinery, several clouds of smoke endlessly streamed from numerous vents, and from the walls of the city, vast rivers of waste streamed outwards. The sludge cut through the desert, visibly turning the surrounding sands a greenish-brown, the surrounding plant life all but dead except for the short branchy trees, tainted the same color as the sands. These rivers of sludge continued forwards for miles and miles, until it reached lands where the sand gained more of its natural color back and the sky was back to a natural blue.

It was here the rivers would come to an abrupt end, now entering large man-made water refineries topped with numerous solar panels. Around these refineries laid hundreds of building constructed out of wood, clay, scrap, or whatever else the populace could use as material. Houses, markets, stores, bars; Enough variation in types of buildings to call it a city, but more scattered rather than densely structured. There were still plenty of people moving about between buildings or this single of many settlements scattered near rivers of sludge. Just about every civilian wore practical work clothes, often with a gun of some sort slung over their shoulders or tucked away in a holster.

At one of these settlements, amongst the crowds of people, a small group of overall-wearing men, covered in soot and scratches, pushed towards a single wooden bar in the midst of several commerce buildings.

They opened the door to a quiet establishment, one person sitting near the back with their legs on the table, a few others at the bar itself drinking, and another few trying to enjoy a meal. One of the overalled men called out, “Which of you is the android?”

The figure in the back raised an armored arm up into the air. The men hurried over as the figure took their feet off the table, standing up revealing a fully armored body, a large revolver at her hip another smaller pistol on her other, and a knife snugly tucked away behind her metal boot. A feminine face made of synthetic skin looked towards them, casually smiling.

“Ferra Jane, pleased to do business with you! So, what do you need me to do? Sludgebeasts in the purification system? Help with repairs? Outlaws bugging you?”

“Well…” The man at the front of the group stared at the ground for a few moments before making eye contact with the droid. “Have you ever dealt with demons before?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Cultists, and maybe a few little things here and there.”

A different overalled man stepped forward. “Cut the drama man! Cultists slaughtered several civilians to summon some massive beast right in our water plant! We just need you to kill it, and we’re willing to give-”

She held up her hand. “We can negotiate payment later, sounds like you all have an urgent situation on your hands!” From behind her seat she picked up a grenade launcher, slinging it over her shoulder. “Hurry up and show the way!”


After several miles of trekking through the desert, the men lead her to a smaller settlement than Ferra’s, but barely a soul was seen outside. She glanced around, every shop and home was closed and locked up tight, the only few men walking around holding rifles and wearing tattered military garb.

“The mayor ordered martial law as soon as we told him about the demon” said one of the men. “Apparently every person that thing eats makes it a bit larger, so he doesn’t wanna take any risk with worsening the situation. I can’t believe we were harboring people who just wanted to use this town as a feeding ground for some reason…”

She nodded. “What kinda people would live out here just to do that?”

Continuing through the deserted streets, they arrived at the front of the water plant, where six other men waited, each also with old looking rifles and discolored uniforms. They took notice of Ferra and hurried over.

“So, give me a quick rundown of how it’s like in there.” She said while drawing and checking her revolver.

“An uncounted number of cultists are holed up in the water storage room, along with that beast of theirs, most of them using either tranquilizers or tasers. They need live sacrifices to feed that beast, and with the manpower we can spare, any attempt of ours risks giving that beast a fresh meal.”

She openly chuckled. “This sounds like it’ll be a cinch then. Stay far away from that beast and try and pick off those cultists from a distance. I’ll provide all the cover you need.”

“Hold on-” Before the soldier could finish his sentence, she kicked open the door and bolted down the hall. Quickly glancing at a facility map on the wall, she hurried forward. The men tried their best to follow.

Kicking open another door, she found herself where she wanted to be. Several large house-sized water tanks were dotted about the room, with several metal walkways running around and between them. In the center of the room rested a beast half the size of the tanks, with a boar-like body and the front of it’s head an exposed, toothy maw. She suddenly felt something strike her abdomen. Looking down, a small tranquilizer dart layed on the floor. She glanced up, meeting eyes with a man on the walkway aiming a tranquilizer gun right at her. Quickly drawing her revolver, she fired at the man, knocking him back and off the walkway with a hole in his chest. Dashing for a ladder, she climbed all the way to the top of the walkway, meeting face to face with several other cultists. Dashing behind the water tank for cover, she looked back at the door, seeing the other soldiers come in.

“Hey boys, take cover behind any of the tanks and keep your eyes up! They’re in the walkways!”

The group of men glanced at her for a few moments before scattering behind several of the tanks. Reloading the round she shot earlier, she dashed out of her cover, firing a few more shots and easily offing a few other cultists wielding tranquilizer guns. A few others had already drawn small submachine guns and returned fire. Realizing no cover between her and her targets, she opted to slide on the ground towards them, this time drawing an autopistol of her own and sprayed a flurry of bullets. One of the men was filled with multiple bullets while the other hit the deck, barely being grazed by her assault. Quickly getting back up to her feet about to draw her revolver once more, but he was cut down by fire from some of the soldiers. She turned to them and gave a quick thumbs up.

“I’m not sure if there’s any more up here, but keep them busy, I’m going for their prize!”

Almost as if they responded to her, multiple cultists, now armed with proper firearms, scattered from behind other tanks down the walkways. One slid down the ladder towards the beast and screamed an incantation. A full on firefight broke out between the soldiers and the cultists as the beast began to shudder and slowly climb to its hooves, letting out a deafening roar. Ferra leapt from the walkway onto the head of the beast, firing the last rounds of her revolver into the back of its head. Despite the four fleshy holes she put into its head, it still let out an aggressive roar, bucking her straight off. She landed on her feet, easily keeping her balance. It turned towards her, baring it’s uncountable amount of razor-sharp teeth, and screeched before charging. She sprinted to the side, noticing a few points of interest: Not only had the wounds she gave it in the head had healed, but it also seemed immune to the crossfire of assault rifle and submachine gun fire going on, several flattened bullets dotting the ground where it once stood. It smashed head first into one of the tanks, chewing off a large chunk of metal and spilling forth a torrent of water. She quickly drew an energy knife and stabbed into the hide of the beast, holding on as the beast bucked and the water washed around her. Alarms now blared around the facility, adding into the noise of the raging firefight, and several grates opened up in the floor, draining away all the excess water. She pulled her knife out from it and dove to the side, loading her grenade launcher. She lined up a shot as the beast turned to her, but then it whipped its head towards where the other soldiers were, some still desperately firing whatever munitions they had left at it. She slung the grenade launcher back over her shoulder and dove at the beast, stabbing into its back leg.

“All of you, get the hell out of here! I can handle it from here, just stay out of danger!”
While the remaining soldiers bolted out of the room, the beast responded by kicking her off, slamming her into the wall. She grunted, dazedly bringing her grenade launcher back out in front of her. The beast was bearing its hundreds of teeth at her, and she fired, completely shattering a good chunk of them. It bucked back shrieking as she hurried to load one other grenade, and once it faced her again, she fired another straight down its abyss-looking stomach. A fireball erupted from within it as the beast let out one final screech, before collapsing to the floor, slowly dissolving into dust.

She smiled, silently pumping her fist to herself.


With a sizeable amount of cash and ammo in tow, the remaining soldiers and plant engineers thanked Ferra for her service. Normally for her jobs, she would also request spare electronic scrap, but this time chose not to ask, instead wishing the best for the repairs on the water plant. The sun still burned high in the sky as she trekked back through the desert, making her way back to her “home” without issue. Pushing back into the old wooden building, Fewer men populated the bar. A man with an unusually large shotgun slung over his back sat hunched over the bar over an empty glass of the bar’s signature moonshine, and a few others were asleep (or passed out) at a few other tables. As soon as she passed the man, he glared at her.

“Ferra Jane, right?”

She paused.

“I’m sorry, I just finished a big job and I need to rest for a while. Come back tomorrow, all right?”

“If you wanted to recharge yourself, there’s an entire solar plant you can hook yourself up to you know.”

She turned to face him with a smile on her face.

“Ha, I don’t think I’ve heard that before! But really, I can’t just do that. I need rest.”

The man stood up in front of her.

“So, are you aware of Congeria’s Android regulation laws?”
She raised an artificial eyebrow. “Can’t say I have, as far as I’m concerned I’m the only android around here.”

He sighed. “Well, my name is Scott Runner, and I work for the Bureau of Android Recovery and-”

Here eyes suddenly widened. “You a government agent of some sort?”
“Of the sorts, and well-”
“FINALLY! About time I get some recognition from you folks. Anyways, I need an audience with whoever is in charge, like soon…”
She continued to babble on as he just shook his head.

“So much for understanding laws…” He muttered. He drew a taser from out of his jacket, launching the prongs right at her. They struck square on her chest, the sound electricity crackling through the air, but she responded merely with a flinch and a shocked expression.

“Did you just try and taze me?”

He retracted the taser. “EMP actually. What kinda bot are you even?”

She knocked on where she was struck. “Faraday plating, its some great stuff. Now as I was saying,-”

“How about I start: Since you’re unaware of the law, I’ll just let you know that any unauthorized android on the continent of Congeria is subject to registration and relocation, and because of that, I’m going to need to take you in for a while. We can do this either the easy way,” He slung the massive shotgun over his shoulder, pointing it at her. “Or the hard way.”

In response, she drew her revolver, aiming right at his head. Scott heard another click behind him, turning noticing the bartender had also drawn a revolver to his head.

“Hey now, I wouldn’t try that. If you kill me, you’ll get the border guard here on this town to find out what happened to me. You wanna risk your independence like that?”

The bartender’s hands shook a bit, before he lowered his arm.

“Hey, what do you mean?” Ferra still kept her aim steady at his head. “Look, all right, I’ll do it your easy way, just let me know what it is, all right? I don’t want any trouble.”

She holstered her gun as he still aimed. He slowly lowered his.

“I have a bad feeling about this, but let’s just get this done.”

From his jacket he pulled out a stack of papers alongside a pen, placing them on the counter beside him.

“I got quite a few questions, just cooperate and we can get you registered and throw you wherever the council wants to throw you. Now, I need your manufacturer, and the date and location of activation.”
She smiled, snapping her finger. “Easy, I was constructed by maintenance unit W00005 two years and one hundred twenty days ago, inside Axios Waste duct 572.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Quite the… eccentric creator you had.”

“I wouldn’t call him that. I didn’t get enough time to know him however.”

He penned down on the paper: “LOCATION DATA TAMPERED.”

“Now, model purpose?”
“Multi-purpose chassis, currently equipped for combat situations.”

He nodded. “Dangerous. AI model?”
“Turing 1.0.”

His eyes slightly widened. “Guess you must have built by somebody who ran a museum. Power unit?”

“An Axios TR-PPU-1.”
“A what now?”
She tilted her head. “You don’t have perpetual power units out here? I mean I knew human technology was a bit behind Axios but…”
He sighed. “Cut the Axios shit, seriously. Are you rechargable? Solar? Hydrogen?”

“I told you, perpetual power. It isn’t much, but sleeping for a night can give me a full day’s worth of power properly.”

“You can quit it with the fantasy crap, seriously. I can almost hear the bolts bouncing around in your head.”
She suddenly bounced a few times.
“See, my heads just fine!”

“Whoop-dee-doo, you’re more crazy than I thought!”

She slammed her hands on the table. “Hey, why the hell are you being so rude to me?”

“I don’t know, why are you looking to be turned into scrap heap when I take you back? Quit the lying and run some kinda fancy diagnostic or whatever.

“Look, you want proof? I’ll let you erm… I’ll let you look at it…”

He stood up. “As long as I can identify the crap and get done faster, hurry and show off. I can’t wait to find a hamster running in a wheel in there.”

She looked away as a compartment in her chest opened up, revealing an almost alien-looking blocky device firmly nestled between several cables.

“I can pull it out, right?”
“Y-yes…”

He grabbed it, yanking the device out, towing along the cables, and Ferra Yelping in response. His eyes widened as he rotated the device around, checking every crevice. Most interestingly, he noticed an engraving of a capital A with a hammer within on the bottom of it. He shoved the device back in, slamming her chest shut, staggering her.

“All right, I’ll admit I have no clue what the hell that is in my years here, but maybe some people back at the bureau do. So I’m still gonna have to take you back, but I’m legally obligated to let you know that we’re going to have to run an autopsy on you to figure out what that thing is.”

She stepped back, bearing shock on her face. “First, it’s a PPU. Second, Isn’t an autopsy supposed to be for things that are… you know, dead?”
He shrugged. “Not like you were alive in the first place. Maybe I’ll get a bonus or something for discovering some new component or whatever. Anyways, let’s-”

“A bonus you say?” A smile grew as she opened up a small compartment in her hip, pulling out a stack of cash and tossing it on the table. He glanced at it for a moment before looking back at her.
“Aw thats cute, you managed to save up some cash in this shithole. I thought you said you wanted to do this the easy way?”

“And I have an easier way, yes? This is merely today’s earnings, and I have much more stowed away.”

A somewhat more interested expression grew on his face. “You gotta be shittin me… Well go on, show everything you’ve made out here then!”

She hurried to the back of the bar, returning moments later with a few hefty sacks in tow. She tossed them on the table

“Not exactly the most glamorous way to carry them around, I know, but I got this and more if you can take me to some kinda official!”

His eyes widened slightly as he peered into the bags. “How the hell did you make all that?”

“Bounty work out here really. Oddjobs, hunting jobs, killing off a few outlaws here and there. A lot of people really need help keeping beasts and bandits out of their cities, you know.”
“I’d expect that for a place like this…” He tapped his fingers on the table. “Tell you what. I can’t exactly take you to any official, let alone anywhere important since you’re kinda an android and all. I can do something beneficial for us both however.”

She sat down across from him. “Well that’s unfortunate, but what do you have in mind?”

“With a bit of ‘mistakes’ with some paper, I can label you as dead, at least in the eyes of the Romitum government. So all those reports of you out here won’t catch anyone’s attention anymore. In turn, however, you’ll be working for me. I can provide some transport to wherever we find work, you and I do the jobs, and we split the cash seventy-thirty. Not a bad price for being disected, right?”
She tapped her chin a few times. “And what about getting me connected with Romitum officials?”
He leaned back. “It’d take some time, but you just present your case and I can see how long it’ll take.”
“Well, what I need to say is-”
“Hold on, I’m not doing anything for you just yet. So what’s it gonna be, autopsy or bounty work for me?”

She pondered for a few moments, but then her eyes lit up. She held forth her hand.

“You have a deal Scott.”

He grasped and shook it.

“All right then Ferra, I’m gonna be looking forward to this.”

Tales from Congeria: Joy and Simon

Hello all new readers! This place has seen a nice influx of newcomers, so I want to make sure you all know:
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The Romitum slums were not a pretty site compared to the rest of the city. It was constantly covered by the shadows of skyscrapers, with dozens of run-down apartments and shady corner stores crammed any inch of space. It’s isolated area from the rest of the city made it bizarre for anyone to travel using a shortcut, and the only reason anyone would enter would be for any shady deeds. Yet a lone woman still traveled through. Wearing nothing but gym wear, proudly showing off her hard-worked physique that rivaled even men, she confidently strutted down the dirty streets, stopping in front of a building that made the mistreated plaster and wood apartments look well-kept. A stone temple was shoved between the two buildings, the cracks in the stone and overrun plant life showing how time was not kind to it, nor  it’s followers. As was to be expected for the home of the God of Righteous Fury. A thin-looking shirtless man left the temple with glum on his face, bearing the strange insignia of the god on his stomach.

Another unchosen patron to him now? The woman thought. A waste of time. Just from looking at him I can tell he ain’t pure of heart.

She remembered back to when she first heard about this god years ago. Gods fascinated her, the fact that pledging to them and following their doctrine would grant their patrons with wondrous powers. The god of Righteous Fury, however, was an outlier. He promises turning one’s will into raw strength, strength beyond that any other god offered, but only to those of “pure of heart”. The catch? One needed to pledge to him before he’d let you know if you were pure. So, you’d be forever pledged to a god who would never assist you, nor could you ever pledge to a new one.

I know above all else, I’m more than worthy enough for him.

She marched on into the temple.

The place was very poorly lit, the little light that reached the slums still creeping in through stone windows. Several rows of pews were overrun with plant life or were smashed, and a few others occupied by people of lesser fortune. The biggest sight-taker, however, was the God’s archstone at the end of the building. Archstones are the Gods’ only method of communication with humans, and they grow depending on their power, to be shattered and spread further. But this one completely dominated the end of the temple, growing into the roof with several veins of magical stone slowly spreading across the walls. The size far dominated even the archstones of the greatest churches around she knew of. She grinned at the sight, and kept walking forward. Observing the stone up close, she noticed several handprints of varying shapes and sizes inscribed into it. Sh. She felt a sensation overtake her as aged voice spoke in her head:
Ah, another for today? Well then. I am-”

“Yeah yeah, I know who you are, I know the qualifications.” Her voice resounded throughout the temple. “I wish to pledge to you, God of Righteous Fury!”

“My, eager aren’t you? You do know-”

“I said I already know everything I need to! Get on with it, judge my heart!”

“Not yet. Give me your name”

“Joy Vera!”

“Joy Vera, you will be judged!”

Keeping her hand firmly planted on it, she suddenly felt a pain on her abdomen. Staring down at her well-defined abs, she noticed the insignia of the god slowly burning it’s way over them. She winced a bit at the pain, until she felt the archstone pull her in. She looked up, noticing her hand had sunk into it. She instinctively yanked it back, before the voice spoke in her head once more.

“I have seen into your heart and mind, Joy, and they are pure, unfettered, and clear. You will share in my fury! Wear my insignia with pride, and go forth and spread righteousness”

She stepped back as a wry smile grew across her face. Her confidence was at an all-time high, and she felt stronger, almost as she could take on the world herself. She worked her way over to one of the sturdier looking parts of the wall and threw a punch at it. Her hand easily knocked a hole twice the size of her fist straight through it, the crash suddenly rousing a few men lying on the pews. They watched with wonder as Joy let loose a kick on the wall, causing the rest of it to crash down. She spun around, checking the rest of the temple, locking onto the stump of a destroyed stone pillar. She jogged over, squatting down and literally digging her fingers into the base of it. Without even straining, she easily hefted it over her head. She stared up, taking in the feat she just pulled off, face wild with amusement. She re-fixed her grip and prepared to see how far she could throw it until a voice resounded through the temple, interrupting her fun;
“Joy! Cease this, and take your fury somewhere else!”

She snapped out of her joyous trance. Carefully placing the ruined pillar back on the ground. Her mind clicked back on track, and she remembered one of the reasons why she came out here in the first place. She turned towards the door and broke into a sprint, kicking up a large cloud of dust and dirt. As fast as she began her sprint, she quite literally dug her heels into the ground, skidding to a stop. Her nose inches away from nearly crashing straight through one of the buildings, she let out a quick sigh of relief, before breaking into a rather fast “jog”, Winding her way quickly through the slums and being forced to slow down by the rather dense crowds of Romitum’s administrative district.

The ever-present skyscrapers still dominated the area, along with a mix of several other administrative buildings, be them for governmental purposes, banks, and various other headquarters for corporations. Shoving her way through the crowds, past several blocks of traffic and buildings, she soon stood in front of a building bearing the icon of a well-decorated sword. The operating headquarters of the Crusaders. Established by followers of the aptly named God of Crusades, it quickly established itself as one of the most prominent PMCs, specializing in hunting demons, domestically and in unprotected lands. Most of the success of it was thanks to the boon the God of Crusades granted. Those who pledged had higher reaction times, dexterity, enhanced senses and strength, practically creating in instantly well-trained soldier. The only downside is once you pledge, you’d have to work with the Crusaders for life, else forfeit your boon. One could register with them as they would any military organization, but Joy had other plans.

She marched on towards the building, pompously throwing the doors open. The reception area was lined with a few rows of chairs, a few casually dressed people filling out forms seated on them. At the front of the room sat a long counter, sitting four receptionists idly typing away on their computers. With a smile on her face, she continued marching forward to one of the receptionists.

“Hey, I wanna join the Crusaders Special Operations Unit!”

The receptionist looked up from his screen at the woman.

“Please ma’am, if you wish to do anything involving registration, you need to fill out a form first.” He handed her a form and pen, returning his focus to the computer.

“Ugh… Fine then. You better help me when I’m done!”

She marched off and sat herself down, slowly filling out the form. Name, Age, location of residence, church pledged to, she begrudgingly filled out every last bit before tossing the form right back in front of the receptionist, the clipboard clacking as it struck the desk.

“All right, I filled out the stuff. Now can you put me in the Special Operations Unit?”

The man took the form and purused through it.

“Sorry uh… Miss Joy, you can’t just sign up and get tested just like that. We have a special procedure for picking those enlisted who are qualified. If you really think you’re qualified, you’ll have to work a few years as a simple soldier or something, I dunno.”

“Excuse me?” She gripped tightly onto the counter, slowly digging her fingers in.

“In the meantime, we’re gonna process your form, and in around twenty-four to seventy-two hours, you’ll receive a letter telling where you’ll be stationed at and what job you’ll be working.”

“I’m sorry, I ain’t gonna let your system decide what I’m gonna do!” She pounded on the counter, leaving a slight imprint in the wood.

The man reached under the desk, pressing a silent alarm for security. “That’s just how this work- Excuse me? You pledged to the God of Righteous Fury?”

Her face lightened up somewhat. “Yeah, glad you finally noticed!”

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but pledging to a God like that well… You’re not going to be able to pledge to the God of Crusades, you realize that, right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So it means your odds of even being enlisted as a recruit are close to none. Was it really worth the risk, throwing away a pledge like that? Although we could use a sanitation work-”

She suddenly leaned over the desk, hoisting the poor receptionist up by the collar with one arm, bringing him up close to her face.

“Look here, I didn’t come sign up here just to be put on toilet duty or wait a few years to get accepted. I’m too good for that crap, and if you didn’t realize it before, realize it now! You can do me a favor and try to put me in that unit where I belong!”

She noticed the receptionist reaching for something in his desk, and he barely managed to draw a pistol. She suspected that her righteous fury would protect her from small arms, but she wasn’t going to test that claim just yet. Using her free arm, she easily yanked the gun from his grasp, and gripped down onto it tightly. Slowly she gripped tighter and tighter until she felt the metal give way to her strength. The gun now a mangled mess of metal, she grinned at her handiwork, before changing her focus back to the now horribly terrified receptionist.

“Joy, please cease harassing the man.”

She whipped her head to the source of the voice.

“Who are you to-”

Standing at the other end of the counter was a figure standing a head and a half over her, armored totally from head to toe, wearing a camouflage coat over it. She looked up to it, staring face to face with a terrifying red-visored helmet, with an air-hose attached to a few visible oxygen tanks strapped over his back. She gulped before releasing the receptionist.

“Thank you Joy.” His voice came through a staticy and rather low-quality speaker from his helmet. “Now, I’d like-”

“How’d you know my name? And who are you to order me around?”

The man tapped his helmet. “All of the security feed runs through my visor. For your second question, will ‘Head of the Special Operations Unit’ command any respect from you?”

Her jaw dropped for a few moments before she regained herself, slowly walking towards him.

“Oh really? That’s great, I was hoping for you! My name is Joy Vera, and I was looking to see how I could join-”

She realized he wasn’t even looking at her, and was instead telling the receptionist how he could go home for the day for the trouble Joy caused. He slowly returned his focus to her.

“As for you, you’re lucky I have somewhat of an interest in you. Had you been anyone else I’d just have security throw you in prison for a few months or so and a nice hefty fine.”

She scoffed. “Not like they could hold me…”

“Now then, come with me. I still have a bit of business with you.”

He began to walk past the desk and down a hallway as Joy kept up gleefully. She kept looking around happily, noticing some recruits relaxing, other rooms where several worked away diligently on computers, passing by training gyms and locker rooms. She couldn’t help but smirk at the sight of several recruits training for whatever missions awaited them. Suddenly the man spoke once more.

“I think I should introduce myself a bit more formally. I’m Commander Simon Elpis, and I’m in charge of leading the Special Operations Unit, finding recruits, testing them, and so forth. You’re not exactly one who I expected to be deemed ‘pure of heart’ but you’ll have to do.”

“Hey, what does that mean exactly?”

“You’re not exactly the first I’ve met who was judged worthy of righteous fury. I’ve met two or three in my time. I never got to know them too well, nor truly see their fullest potential.” The duo passed through a doorway and began to climb some stairs. “But that’s what I plan on doing with you if you’re worthy.”

She smirked once more. “Please, whatever you have planned, I’m sure it’ll be of no issue!”

“Make no mistake Joy, your physical prowess is something for anyone to be impressed by, but that alone isn’t going to keep you in the unit, not alive for long at least.” They climbed to the uppermost floor and passed through into a hallway filled with several sealed steel doors, each with a small panel to its side. “I have a feeling how this is going to go, so here’s my test to you.”

He walked to one of the doors, drawing a key card from his pocket and swiping it. They quickly opened up and he stepped inside the room, motioning with his hand for Joy to wait. The door suddenly slammed, and through the panel he spoke.

“If you can get into my office, I’ll personally accept you as my partner. If not, you’re going to have to train with the recruits for a few years before you can try to join again. Good enough?”

She smiled and cracked her knuckles. “That’s the best offer I’ve heard in years!”

She reared back her fist and threw it at full force at the door, sending a resounding CRASH through the hall. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t feel the door budge a bit, and left a nice fist-shaped indent in the door. Her smile evaporated as she retracted her hand, shaking away the pain.

“All right, so this is how it’s gonna go, huh?”

She took a step back and delivered a strong kick at it, letting out the same crash, but only barely managing to shake the door. The intercom crackled to life.

“Think you’re the first who tried to brute-force down the door? I’ve seen them all: Bionically enhanced-folks or those who even made pacts with demons for far-above average strength. Unfortunately for them, you’d need the strength of a truck ramming full force into this thing if you wanna knock it down like that.”

She grunted, and decided for her plan B. She used her fingers to very slowly distort some of the metal at the center until she could finally get a grip between the two doors. She tried at first to wedge them apart, but found them barely moving.

“Come on… Move dammit!”

She strained every muscle in her arms and back to try and shove them apart, finally gaining some headway. As the slit between the door widened, she shoved her hands entirely in, pushing with every ounce of strength she could will. The doors creaked as she gripped tighter and pushed harder, the metal slowly bending to the two counteracting forces. Moments passed, she strained harder and harder, until finally with a guttural yell and a powerful shove, she forced the door open, gasping for breath and covered in sweat. Simon, who was typing away at his computer, turned to the sight.

door_2_soft
Artwork by http://euphori-cat-art.tumblr.com/

“Well, I’ll be damned…”

She regained her breath. “Is that strong enough for you?”

He slowly clapped his hands together. “VERY impressive Joy. Maybe your brute force is enough… But not without discipline of course. I’ll keep my deal, but there’s more to it.”

Her eye twitched. “What now?”

He stood up and walked past her. “This is a standard security door you’ll find anywhere in Congeria. Granted, mine is somewhat high-end, but any facility that wants to protect something will be caught dead without one. Using an electromagnetic seal, it’ll exert somewhere around five tons of force.”

“And?”

He closed the door in front of her. A few moments later, he easily shoved open the door, resulting in a double-take from Joy.

“I’m impressed that you were able to overcome the seal, but that electromagnetic force is something relatively easy to overcome if you know how the thing works. Using that strength of yours, you could have easily torn off the control panel and with some insulated gloves and a bit of technical know-how, easily yanked out the door’s power cables. Then you’d only have to deal with the hydraulics. I was able to disable both with a little bit of handiwork.”

Her shock turned to anger. “Yeah, so what? I got some common door open, does it matter?”

“Quite a bit actually. With the ops we’re going to be doing, it’s advantageous to get it open quickly and silently.”

She grumbled to herself as he continued. “But, a deal is a deal. I just hope my miscalculation wasn’t too big of a mistake. If you follow my orders, it shouldn’t.” He walked over to his desk and grabbed a packet of paper, handing it to Joy. “There’s just a bit more paperwork you need to finish up. Get it to me first thing in the morning and I’ll process it all myself. Then we’ll be able to do some work ASAP.”

She quickly snatched the packet out of his hand, her mood lightening a bit. “Well, if you say so… I’ll see you tomorrow then I guess?”

“I’ll see you then, assuredly.”

She turned and began jogging out of the office. Simon sighed and turned to his computer once more, typing up a small report to a repairman.

It wasn’t long before Joy finally sprinted all the way back to her apartment,  bounding her way home with glee. Unlocking her door and throwing it open, she entered her apartment. Passing by her well-kept living living room, she paused as she eyed her home gym, made up of a small assortment of machines and weights. She chuckled to herself, walking over to. “Well old friend, looks like I’m way out of your league now.” She picked up one of the larger weighted plates with one arm, and gently tossed it up and down, smiling. Taking the weight in both hands, she began to attempt to bend the mass of metal, it slowly giving way to her strength until it was bent messily in half.

“I wonder if there’s any equipment that I can keep up with now… Maybe the Crusaders can provide.”

Passing by her kitchen, which was loaded with every appliance and more a woman of her stature needed, she entered her bedroom, which was neatly organized with a nice quality bed, a fully stocked dresser, and a small desk area dedicated to work. She pulled out the desk chair and quickly unraveled the packet Simon had given her. She found a rather hefty assortment of papers. First she pulled out more registration papers which she neatly placed to the side. Next, a field guide for the Crusaders. She scoffed at the sight and tossed it into the wastebin. Lastly, were several bills: One for charges of assault, and a few others for property damage. She slammed the papers on her desk.

“DAMMIT SIMON!”

On the other side of the city, Simon, still fully clad in armor and helmet, returned to his abode. Pushing open the door, he entered a realm that was a mess of scrap, wires, and other various electrical parts. His living room couldn’t even be called that. It was more of a miniature workshop. His kitchen almost looked like that too, filled with several pieces of blending equipment, and a large cabinet of alcohol that he wished he could drink someday. He made his way towards the kitchen, kicking away pieces of scrap until he approached the fridge. Swinging it open, it was filled to the brim with several vial-like tubes filled with what could only be described as sludge. Taking out one of the vials, he hooked it up to the front of his helmet, slowly draining it. Finishing his meal, he audibly gagged and coughed, before placing the vial on the counter. He worked his way to his bedroom which could also be described as a library. Hundreds upon hundreds of books, photo albums, textbooks, and so forth all shoved in shelves and stacked up high lay at the opposite end of the room. Many of them lie wide open, still waiting to be finished. He sat himself on his bed, slowly laying down.

“Gods, I hope this deal isn’t going to be the one that kills me.”

You can read Part 2 Here