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.


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