Monday, August 07, 2006

“Soon” CONSTRUCTIVE criticism please

“Soon” – that was what the creature had rasped in my face. “Soon” slurring the word as it held me dangling off the roof. I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream, all vestiges of sanity had fled the moment it held me in its clawed hands. What was it? I couldn’t tell you, I didn’t even know myself. However, I digress – allow me to start from the beginning, if there is such a thing. Allow you to draw your own conclusions.

I’m a hunter, a bounty hunter by trade, although I chase down and acquire most anything that pays well enough. As a rule I catch the criminals, the scum, which the local police shudder to think about. Law can only reach so far, banishing the old adage about “The Long Arm of the Law”. These days? It just aint long enough…
However, that’s where I come in. For a nominal fee I’ll gladly chase down the errant villain for whatever law-enforcement agency will pay. It’s a satisfying career, hard work yet hard payoffs. Most definitely, the payoffs are very good - I live comfortably, residing in a very impressive three-roomed condo overlooking the Thames. Yeah, it’s not exactly the Mediterranean but have you seen the prices in New London these days? The rental price alone is more than what most civilians earn in a year. At least I own this apartment, so that puts me a few notches above the average civvie.
Besides, I like New London. It’s got such a peaceful atmosphere, not exactly the quaint London of old, but nice. The people are friendly for the most part, but it’s the design I like so much. When you think of London, you usually think towers, cathedrals, cobblestones right? Not anymore. Now you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Tokyo and New London. Neon lights glitter with eye-watering brightness, animated billboards are strung up pretty much anywhere you can fit them, all advertising various brands of clothing or consumables. Buildings that seem to grow right out of your own imagination – rare metals, glass of every colour, grey and black steel. Gone are the days of Neapolitan architecture. This is NEW London. Progressive London.
As I said, nice.

Naturally, where you find honest, decent people – you’ll find the sickened element. The scam artists that wait patiently to exploit the generic “milk of human kindness” The muggers skulking in the shadows, looking for the next payoff. Murderers killing for money or even just for pleasure. Oh, yes, it may be NEW London, but I never said “Evolved” London, now did I? Everywhere you go, you’ll find the seedier aspect of human nature. It’s unfortunate for most people, but not me.
Oh no, not for me. I make my living hunting criminals such as those. It’s my business and lately? Business is booming.
Take my latest “acquisition” for example. A long slog granted, but the rewards are always worth it. I tracked my quarry for two weeks across the desert-plains of Wales. Why oh why did the fragger have to choose Wales of all places to hide? Have criminals no decency? Don’t answer that… rhetorical question.
The last Great War had affected the United British Isles much more harshly than the previous conflicts, leaving most of the countryside desolate and wasted – victim of many nano-technological bombs. Wales suffered just as greatly as anywhere else in the UBI, lush green fields reduced to uninhabitable rubble in mere weeks. So naturally it made tracking someone across Wales a very difficult task indeed.
Johnner – He went by that name, nobody knew if that was his real name or something he tagged himself with, and no amount of cred seemed to be enough to acquire anything more than that. As it happens, it turns out this “Johnner” has a penchant for flesh, and he’s no slouch when it comes to acquiring that.

Oh, didn’t I mention? Johnner is a Ghoul. Ah, such is the way in a world warped by conflicts fought using chemical and biological weapons. Sure, some theorists argue that humanity is going through another stage of evolution – I usually discount that on general principle. I mean, what kind of evolution would require you to suddenly shift into a monster that requires human flesh to survive? Or mysteriously develop the ability to toss balls of flame on command? Still, the theory is growing on me… even if it does make my job harder and more unpredictable.
Nevertheless, I’d tracked this Ghoul across a hundred miles of dead land, each day growing more and more convinced that he’d slipped past me – until I stumbled upon the mutant bodies of a farmer and what I’d assumed to be his wife. I say assumed because there was no real way of knowing, not least because she had no face left. For all I knew, it could’ve been his sister. Mutants have been known to procreate with family members. Ah, such is life in the Awakened World (to coin a saying…)
The corpses had been gnawed on quite voraciously, the female suffering much more damage than her spouse (brother?) – I wish I could say that they were dead before the feasting had begun, but judging by the fact that the farmer held an outdated handgun in his crushed hand, I’d guess they knew exactly what was coming and had been powerless to stop it.
Ghouls, although they require fresh meat to cease the rate of decay on their bodies, do possess an unusually high amount of strength and they rarely feel pain. What would stop a normal human would barely faze a Ghoul. Scary stuff when said Ghoul is rushing towards you with the full intent on making you its lunch. Another thing to add further to the threat-rating of a Ghoul – they have normal to above-normal intelligence. Mostly animal instinct, but I’ve personally dealt with a few Ghouls that could thoroughly trounce me at Chess. As I said, scary stuff.

I had lucked out in this instance, however. It seems the farmer had managed to squeeze at least one shot off from his revolver before the Ghoul had crushed every bone in his hand. The shot had struck the mark and although lacked sufficient punch to do any lasting damage, had caused the beast to bleed heavily. Ghouls aren’t human and they don’t have rights like humans as far as I’m concerned, so be damned with calling them anything but beasts or monsters. Screw the bleeding-heart liberalists. What next? A Ghoul running for candidacy? I doubt they are pathologically evil, but seeing as how the very substance that they need to exist can only be taken from living humans – I’d say given enough time as a Ghoul, JC himself would have a heart blacker than coal.
I knelt down into the dust and dipped my finger in the pool of blood, it was warm. The encounter couldn’t have happened more than a couple of hours ago, with the sun managing to keep the blood relatively warm. Looking up, I saw splashes of blood leading away into what appeared to be an old roadside café. I had originally mistaken it for a house of some kind. A café? Out in this wilderness? The mutant must have made it his home I guess. Not much else around here to choose from.

Drawing my gun, I crept towards the diner, trying to keep a low profile as possible. The farmer’s gun hadn’t packed enough stopping power to help him, but I damn well made sure I never left my apartment without Military Grade ordnance. Ares Defender Mk2… that’s one hell of a sidearm, and it never leaves my side. My hand-cannon packed enough stopping power to crack the engine block on a double-decker bus and come through the other side. Ghoul or not, nothing is taking a kick from that and laughing it off. Thumbing the safety catch I crouched low and crept as quietly as possible around to the service entrance of the diner. I could hear crashing sounds echoing from inside, judging by the sound of it Johnner was royally pissed off and was taking his rage out on the farmer’s possessions. Hell, maybe my luck was holding and the farmer had managed to cause some serious wounding? I doubted it, but a hunter can but hope...
As I neared the rear-entrance, I heard shouting from inside. The Ghoul certainly sounded angry and he was looking for something!
“Where the hell is it!?”
Sweat trickled down my back as my spine went cold. I knew that voice, and it belonged to no Ghoul when I knew him!

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