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May 20, 2024

Mercenary, Part 3

By Tyler Willson

Then, without even thinking about it, my eyes opened, and I realized what Ol' Bob had given me. It always amazed me how he got around without any eyes, but now I knew that he could see much better than most people. The darkened sewer was as plain as day to me, yet I didn't see it as much as feel it. The magic fancy he had given me must be some kind of psychic focus, using my psychic energy to substitute for the shortcomings of my physical eyes. I didn't spend a lot of time considering my newfound ability, however; the men in the room above had reached the grate, and were preparing to follow. I jogged downstream a ways, searching desperately for a way out. As I ran, I checked back towards my pursuers. They had spent too much time arguing over who would jump into the sewer first, and they would never be able to catch up. I dismissed them, and turned my attention to the many passageways surrounding me. Suddenly, in a blinding flash, I saw Bob, crouched in a corner, shielding his head from the merciless attacks of an oddly shaped figure.

I froze, and concentrated, trying to discern the location of this particular room, and followed my instincts to a small round door set back into the wall. I tried to look inside the door, but all I could see was a swirling mist. Suddenly, the door burst open, striking me in the face, and knocking me off the walkway into the sewer sludge. Three huge orcs, wearing titanium body armor and carrying H&K's. Bright white light flooded out of the doorway, temporarily blinding me, until I closed my eyes and reached out with my newfound sight. What I saw was not good. All three sub-machine guns were pointed directly at me, as I lay there scrabbling for footing in the filthy water. I decided that the first priority was to get out of the light, and give them less of a target.

I concentrated all of my will upward, and felt a force physically lift me upwards, out of the sludge. I was temporarily confused, I hadn't pushed off with my legs, or hands, yet I was sailing up over the walkway, and smacked into the wall next to the three orcs. Not a second too soon, as the three goons opened up on the spot where I had been not a split second before.

Of course, being in a concrete pipe, firing off metal-jacketed slugs at the rate of about 300 rounds per minute, it didn't take long for the tunnel to fill up with ricocheting, whining slugs. One of the orcs caught it right off, his face smashed beyond recognition. He dropped his gun and tumbled forward into the water. The others caught on pretty quick, and stopped firing, but it took about five seconds for all of the slugs to quit buzzing around. Another slug hit one in the chest, but the armor prevented any serious damage. Still, it knocked the wind out of him, and sent him to the walkway, gasping for breath. The third, miraculously untouched looked around, saw one companion floating facedown in the water, and another writhing in pain on the ground. Not sure what to make of it, he turned and ran squealing back through the door. It slammed shut behind him, plunging the tunnel once again in darkness. I lay there, stars shooting through my vision. I had slammed pretty hard into the wall, and I mentally examined myself, trying to decide if I was broken or not.

The orc recovered more quickly, however, and started snuffling in the dark. He popped a lightstick, and the green light slowly grew until he caught sight of me. Having learned his lesson with the gun, he grabbed it by the barrel, and swung it like a club. I recovered in time, and rolled out of the way just as the stock shattered on the ground next to me. He squealed in rage and raised it for another swing, but I snatched out the bayonet, and plunged it into his throat. His enraged squealing turned to gurgling, and he slowly sunk to his knees, then rolled over onto his side. I kicked him off into the water before I realized that my knife was still stuck in his throat. I cursed at his sinking body, and then I heard the door swing open again. I swung around, whipping out the katana, and met the enraged charge of the third orc. He had abandoned his gun, and was swinging a rusty old battle-ax in an earnest attempt to relieve me of my head. I ducked, and swung for his midsection, forgetting all about the titanium armor.

To its credit, the pawnshop vibra-blade did admirably, but it failed to penetrate the armor. The force of the blow took him right on target, but it only doubled him over, making him lose his grip on the ax. It clattered to the floor, and I circled around behind him, and just as I was about to behead him, I slipped on the puddle of gore left by the first orc, and fell down. I quickly recovered, but my slip gave him just enough time to come around, this time with his bare hands. I stood up, and gave a mighty thrust of with the Katana, hoping that a stab would penetrate better than a slash. The orc screamed in pain and fury as my blade sliced through his midsection, pinning him to the brick wall. I planted my foot against his chest to gain leverage and pull it out, when I felt a burning sensation in my hand. I let go and jumped back just in time to avoid a fireball emitted by the exploding powerpack in the handle. The body armor worn by the orc must have overloaded the power pack, and the resulting power surge was just more than the regulator could handle.

So that's how I came to be here, huddled in the corner of a nasty dark sewer, my only weapon a child's magic trick, and a fight yet to come with who knows what kind of a mutant alligator. I was on the verge of despair, when I heard Ol' Bob scream in pain. Now, I know I talk a tough line of bull about my mercenary nature, but I never have been able to stand the thought of a friend being hurt and to tell the truth, I really did like old Bob. So I stood up, pulled the "powerful StunStik©" out of my belt, and crawled through the door.

I tried to be cool, but trading the cool damp stench of the sewer for a hot, humid stench of a jungle pretty much unnerved me more than I want to admit. Bright white sunlamps everywhere created the illusion of a sunny day in the tropics. I squinted for a minute, then closed my eyes altogether, and felt about me with my newfound sight. I felt all about the room and found Ol' Bob restrained in the corner and a big ugly creature hovering over him with a neural whip. I caught the train of Ol' Bob's thoughts, and despite the extreme agony he was suffering from the Lizardman's torture he seemed to be highly amused at my appearance. I stood there, dripping sewage from head to foot, splattered with orc blood and with holes burnt all over my clothes. I clutched that little stick in one hand, and the soggy little scrap of paper in the other. Then the big Lizardman left off torturing Ol' Bob and came straight after me.

He was pretty hot -- I guess he must have paid some pretty fat cash to have me scrubbed out after he sensed Ol'Bob sending me messages. I saw him coming, and in a panic I started trying to read the stupid incantation to activate the stunstik. I guess if I would've spent any time at all studying magic I would've known it was absolute rubbish. I didn't nearly have the time to finish it by the time he got there, and he jumped up in the air, meaning to come down on me with those big ugly claws of his. In that instant I forgot all about silly spells, and weapons, and all of that other foolishness, and I just rammed that stupid stick up to my elbow in that big lizard's belly. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't anything at all like what happened. I was just focusing all of my frustration, all my anger, all of my hatred on that cheap little stick. I just gave that dude everything I had, maybe a bit more too.

A flash of light came out from around where his belly was impaled on my arm, then that big gator dude just exploded, from the inside out. There wasn't a piece of him left that was big enough to talk about, and it all just came raining down all over that tiny little room.

For some reason I didn't stop there, or maybe I couldn't. I just kept on building, and building, and maybe I would have kept building until I exploded too, except that Ol' Bob stepped in and helped me stop. He placed one wrinkled old brown hand on my shoulder, and I felt his wise and calming influence flow through me. The anger died, the hate petered out, and I felt myself falling as if from some great height to land on the warm concrete floor behind me. He later told me that even experienced shamans don't have the strength to focus the amount of energy I channeled through that little toy. And the funny thing was, it was still there, clenched in my fist, completely unharmed. That thing must have been some kind of powerful medicine.

I woke up back in my flat, in my own bed, and for a moment, I was pretty sure that it was all a dream. But when I tried to sit up, every muscle in my body screamed, and I knew then that it must have been real. I looked around; my place had been wrecked. The orcs I suppose. This must have been their "nasty surprise" Even the secret cache of weapons underneath the floor had been ransacked. I realized that all of the weapons were gone. "I guess I am ruined" I mumbled to myself; I will never be able to earn enough money to replace everything." I lay back in the bed with a moan. "Oh, finally ye're awake are ye, I guess you won't be dying today, will ye, So'jer?" I jerked upright; then, when bright lights exploded in my head, I slowly lay back down, and turned my head. There was Ol' Bob, greasy old hat, turkey feather and all, bringing me a tray of food. He stepped skillfully around the mounds of destroyed furniture in the room, and for a moment I was amazed, then I remembered that he was no more blind than I was. I raised my hands to take the tray, and I found, wrapped around my hand, a leather thong. On one end dangled a bedraggled, stained eagle feather, on the other, no longer a bearclaw, but the figurine of an eagle, carved from fragrant juniper wood.

"You no longer need my totem to help you listen, you have learned to listen to your own. I can have mine back now."

He grinned his toothless grin, and held up his hand, with the bearclaw dangling from it. "Now that you have learned to listen, So'jer, mercenary you are no more. Now you are Shaman, last of your line, with all the powers of your ancestors at your command. Good Luck, Sees-from-the-Sky."

Then he was gone, and that is where my story ends, and begins.

-- Tyler Willson

Article © Tyler Willson. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-01-12
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