The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 9:07 am

By JKolasch

Xander stood in the center of a group of twenty or so other Conduits. They were standing on a small hill. A hill which Fin realized was really the rubble and remains of a collapsed building. Swords planted in the ground, the Conduits and Xander made a striking image. Black and silver coats were buffeted by the wind as they all pointed in unison and fired silver beams that coalesced together, combining their power, and sliced through the now thinning horde of Thieves.

            The relief Fin had initially felt was short lived. He was still pressing hard onto Carl’s wound, attempting to slow the loss of blood. But that was a fight he was rapidly loosing. “Grace! I need you!”

            Grace’s head finally shifted and Fin could see the silver streaks of light flying past them reflected in her wide eyes. She looked over to Fin, her face ashen, save the scarlet stream of blood that was starting to crust on her face. Her eyes were still wide, almost glassen and unseeing like a doll.

            “Grace! Snap out of it! Come on!” Fin desperately wanted to go over to her, but he knew he couldn’t leave Carl. And even if his sword wasn’t broken, he was nowhere near as gifted at healing as Grace was.

            Mills strode over to Grace, Callie at his heel. She was limping and her steel fur was covered in a muddy white: the gore of her own wounds mixed with torn viscera and flesh of the Thieves. Mills knelt down and grabbed Grace’s face. “Hey, your friends need you. You good?”

            Grace stared into Mills’s face for a moment. Then she blinked. And blinked again. She gently shook her head as Mills let go of her face. “I… Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” She took Mills offered hand and let him help her stand.

            “Go. Carl’s hurt bad.”

            Grace started to move toward Fin and Carl. She half turned back to Mills. “I heard Callie yelp. Let me know if there’s anything I can do. Never tried to heal a dog, but I’m sure I can help if needed.”

            Mills simply nodded, a cigarette already hanging from his lip like a magic trick.

            “I’m here,” Grace said. She kneeled down next to Carl, snaking her hands under Fin’s blood-soaked coat. She winced as she touched the wound, but her face was set. Her eyes flared silver, this time from her own power, and not the reflection of the now diminishing beams. “This will feel…unpleasant.”

            Carl’s body tensed and began to convulse. Fin held him down as Grace fought to keep her hands in position. Silver light crackled around Carl’s shoulder and the scent of seared flesh touched Fin’s nose. He glanced over at Grace, but her attention was solely on Carl’s shoulder.

            Fin glanced around the street that had become a battlefield. Smears of white and chunks of bodies littered the ground, spreading out from them in a half-circle. There was still some movement out there, but the Conduits’s attacks had slowed down. Most of the Thieves were either dead or scattered. He heard footsteps, a strange mix of crunching against gravel and squelching.

            “I see you made some new friends and promptly got into trouble. And what the fuck happened to your face?”

            “I thought you all had left,” Fin said.

            Xander knelt down next to Fin, rugged face looking down at Carl’s, whose face was still twisted in pain. “That was the plan. To be honest, we tried. I took a group of Conduits and went to support General Matthias’s evacuation efforts. It… It didn’t go well.”

            “What happened?”

            “I’d say not much different than what happened here. But that’d be a fucking lie. Here we were able to save your asses. The Soulless were ready for us. We were attacked by the largest group of Soulless and Thieves I’ve ever seen.” Xander allowed a small, half smile. It was crooked and served to darken his face. “Course, a few days ago we hadn’t seen any Soulless.” He motioned back to the hill where the other Conduits were. “Not much of us left. Some military guys are holed up with other guys that look a lot like your friends here.” He nodded toward Carl and Mills.

            “I didn’t realize it was so bad.”

            Xander nodded. “None of us did. I mean, what we saw in Harlem and Times Square was bad. But the extent of it. The total devastation…” Xander trailed off, staring at Carl.

            “Is it all like this?” Fin motioned around. While there were a large number of buildings standing, many of them had substantial damage. Sections blown out, some half collapsed, others just piles of rubble, like the one Xander and the Conduits had been on. Debris and ruin littered the streets. Cracked concrete, charred vegetation, vehicles in varying states of destruction. And then death. There weren’t always bodies or evidence of human remains, but there was enough. Charred remains, shattered bones, and sometimes just bodies with little evidence of trauma. Closer examination would show ragged holes through vital places: head, heart, or various other parts of the body. It was clear the Soulless didn’t discriminate. Military, police, Conduit, and civilian all blended together. To the Soulless, it seemed that a life was a life, which meant they wanted everyone dead.

            “It was like this last time.” Carl’s voice was strained and rough. His face and expression matched. Pale and tight lipped, the corners of his eye pinched. “Only the creation and deployment of the Damp Fields stopped them.” Carl tried to get up, but Grace’s hand on his injured shoulder kept him from doing anymore than sitting up.

            “You still need more healing. I’ve done what I can, but there’s still a lot of trauma from that wound.” Grace’s eyebrows were pinched together, a sheen of sweat covering her brow. She kept her hand on Carl’s shoulder.

            “Believe it or not, I’ve had worse. And it’s not likely better healing’s gonna be available anytime soon.” Carl gently moved Grace’s hand away, trying and failing to hide the grimace of pain. “Save your strength.”

            Grace hesitated, biting her bottom lip.

            “Really, Grace. I’ll be fine.”

            Grace looked like she wasn’t going to listen, but she nodded. She stoop up and walked over to Mills, where he was sitting on the ground, Callie in his lap, and a cigarette half-forgotten in his mouth. Grace knelt down in front them and scratched Callie’s snout. “How’s she doing?”

            Mills roughed Callie’s scruff. “She’s good. One of the Thieves was able to penetrate the armor spell, but the wound looks pretty superficial. Already stopped bleeding, so I’ll think we’ll be good.”

            “Want me to take a look anyway?”

            Mills shrugged and pulled the cigarette from his mouth with a puff of smoke. “If you wanna try, sure. Will it bother her like it did Carl?”

            Grace extended both hands and touched them on either side of Callie’s chest, her fingers burrowing into the soft fur. “Honestly, I’m not sure. Carl was hurt pretty bad. Worse than I’d ever healed, to be honest. Usually, it’s a cold feeling. Kinda like ice along the spine.” Grace brushed Callie’s fur gently. “It’s okay, baby. I’m just gonna see if I can take some of the hurts away.”

            Callie looked up at Grace with her wide, brown eyes and whined softly. Grace closed her eyes and channeled her power, looking for wounds. Callie whimpered, and then shivered, her fur shaking in a silky sheen of brown and black. And then her tongue lolled out of her mouth and she started panting, tail wagging softly.

            Mills chuckled. “Well, guess she doesn’t find it so bad.”

            “That’s a good girl, Callie!” Grace ruffled the fur between Callie’s ears. “That armor spell of yours seems pretty durable.”

            “Mine?” Mills had another cigarette in his mouth and was pulling a burning finger away from it. He shook his hand, putting out the flame. “That’s all her.” He winked at Grace.

            A Conduit came down the hill toward Xander and Fin, his hand wrapped tightly around his sword. “Xander, we’ve got word that some Soulless are getting close to our position. They branched off from that massive group performing that summoning ritual or something.”

            Carl was on his feet, albeit unsteady. It was clear his shoulder injury was still causing him significant pain, despite the healing that Grace performed. “All this,” he motioned with his good hand at the smattering of white corpses and gore, “and we still have that fucking dragon to deal with.”

            Xander cocked his head at the mention of the dragon. “That mean what I think it does?”

            Fin nodded.

            “Well shit. One thing at a time though. Let’s get off the street and regroup. I’m not sure any of us are ready to tangle with a group of Soulless right now.”

            “We’re running out of time to have a choice,” Mills said. He had come over shortly after the Conduit shared his intel with Xander.

            “And you are?” Xander’s voice was neutral.

            “This is Mills,” Fin answered. “And his dog, Callie. He’s the Elementalist and they’ve saved our lives twice now.”

            Xander’s eyes momentarily widened. “So you did find him?”

            “More they found us.”

            Mills flicked the cigarette butt into the street. “Doesn’t matter. To the point, we should get moving. The Soulless coming our direction was the main reason for our rapid retreat in the first place.”

            Two phones buzzed and both Carl and Mills fished cell phones out of their pockets. In a blur, Mills’s phone was replaced with a shotgun and he had whirled around. Carl fumbled, working to get his phone back in his pocket and grab his rifle, but his injury was making it impossible.

            “Movement, southwest!” A voice yelled.

            Mills was already summoning a ball of fire into his free hand. The Conduit that had come down to them started to draw his sword, but his skin was flaking from his body as fire raced through his veins. He was gone in a soft explosion of ash and his sword clattered to the ground. Mills released the fireball, sending it roaring across the street at the Soulless that was standing in the open, its white hand outstretched from the snap. The Soulless waved its hand and brushed the fireball aside. The attack puffed out, a smear of blue fire and smoke that vanished as easy as if it was erased.

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 8:21 am

By JKolasch

Mills was like the conductor of a symphony. He stood in the center of a whirling inferno of smoke and fire, a blue tornado of destruction. It was a ring of protection around the three people on the ground. Three people who had tried to stand against a tsunami of Thieves. Callie was crouched near Fin, her eyes fixed on Mills, but ready to protect the fallen Conduit and his companions at a moment’s notice. Mills’s face was calm, even as his torrent of elemental power ripped around him, thrashing his hair and trench coat. His eyes were fixed on the horde in front of him. With a flick of his wrist, he shot a tendril of fire into the mass, like a whip. It cracked through the ash bodies, cleanly separating torsos from legs. The Thieves made little effort to move forward or attack but Mills knew better than to give them the opportunity.

            “How they doing, Call?” Mills kept his eyes forward, his attention on the Thieves.

            Callie whined softly.

            “What I figured. Let’s get them moving. Surprised no Soulless have showed up to this party yet.” Mills sent two more tendril whips into the mass. It didn’t seem like it was doing anything to thin their numbers. Mills risked a quick glance back and saw Fin stirring again. “You gotta get up, Conduit! We’re sitting ducks here.”

            Fin struggled, but he managed to sit up this time. His head was throbbing, pain ran through his entire body, and his throat still felt like it had been torn apart. He looked over at Grace and Carl: they were both stirring and starting to get up. They looked beat to hell. Hair matted to bloody and sweaty foreheads. But they were moving. He heard a soft whine at his side, and he turned to see the dog, Callie sitting next to him. He reached out, but hesitated, unsure how she would respond. Callie ducked her head toward his hand. Fin smiled and scratched between her ears. He groaned to his feet, but he was up and standing. He heard the fire whip cracks from Mills’s attacks.

            Fin was momentarily frozen in awe. The shear power the man was wielding, and so casually. Even still, Fin couldn’t help but notice that for as effective as the Elementalist’s attacks were, there was no visible dent in the Thieves before them. No. Fin’s eyes narrowed as he looked beyond the whirling ring of fire surrounding him, Grace, Carl, the man, and his dog. Thieves were surrounding them. Of course. It’s not like the creatures would stay on one front while getting attacked. They would reposition and work to regain a tactical advantage. For as mindless as these creatures seemed, they possessed a wicked and carnal intelligence.

            “Who the hell is that?” Grace asked. “And is that a dog?”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 8:21 am”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 6:13 am

By JKolasch

“Dragon event?” Grace broke the silence.

            “Does that mean what I think it does?” Fin’s eyes were glassy orbs staring past the phone screen still held up for them to read. His voice was calm, but not the calm of a still pond. It was the calm of sail without wind.

            Carl nodded, tapping at the phone’s screen. “Based on how you just asked, I’m assuming you’re at least a little familiar with the dragon.”

            “I’ve read some stories. Saw snippets of damaged footage that was salvaged.”

            “Wait, wait.” Grace was shaking her head. Her arms matched the motion, cutting against each other. “Is this why the Soulless have been gathering? To summon one of those things?”

            “Very likely,” Carl said. “I may have been a lot younger the first time around, but it’s basically the Soulless’s M.O.”

            “So you weren’t just there when New York was destroyed.” Fin was still calm.

            Carl looked at Fin for a moment before answering, eyes scanning over the Conduit’s passive face. “No, I wasn’t.” There was an ache in the way those words pushed out of Carl’s lungs. “I am a veteran of the War of Souls. I lost family and friends then, and I’ve lost family and friends now. No escape it seems.” Carl’s lips tucked together. Clearly, he was trying to smile to pass it off, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

            “Oh Carl, I’m so sorry.” Grace reached out gingerly, as if to comfort Carl, but stopped and pulled her arms back, hugging herself tightly.

            “Just figured once was enough, you know?” Carl walked over and grabbed his rifle from by the door. He pointed at the swords. “Might want to grab those, we need to get going.”

            Fin nodded, going to retrieve both swords. He paused. “Hold on. How are you getting this kind of information? We haven’t heard anything from headquarters.”

            “Well, we haven’t exactly checked in, either.” Grace had gotten their swords. She held Fin’s out for him.

            Carl looked back and forth between the two. “Seriously? That gives me loads of questions. But first, we know because we share information. We’ve got people all over the city keeping an eye on things and fighting.”

            “Speaking of more questions,” Fin started.

            Carl cut him off with a flutter from his hand. “It feels like you’re implying that you guys can’t talk to each unless you are actively trying to talk to each other. Which is crazy.”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 6:13 am”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 5:03 am

By JKolasch

Fin woke to someone standing over him, something long and metallic pressing into his chest. It was cold, even through the layers of his uniform. He couldn’t quite make out any details about who was standing over him, the lights of the room haloed the figure in a blurry haze. As far the object pressing into his chest, Fin was pretty sure it was a gun. The end felt too blunt to be anything else. He blinked his eyes, trying to clear the sleep and to acclimate to the light.

            “What are you doing in my room?” The voice was gruff.

            Fin blinked. “Your room? I… We…” He glanced over to see Grace sitting on the couch. Her eyes met his and glanced from the gun at Fin’s chest to the something else he couldn’t quite see. But he could guess.

            “And don’t even think about going for those pigstickers you lot like to brandish about.”

            Even if Fin had wanted to, his sword was across the room. It was propped up against the wall by the door, alongside Grace’s sword. He almost spoke, but thought better of telling the man currently pinning him down with a firearm that he didn’t need his sword to use magic. True, he would be limited. But against what appeared to just be a normal person?

            “I’ll ask again.” The tip of the barrel drove into Fin’s chest, emphasizing the man’s words. “What are you doing in my room?”

            “We needed a place to stay,” Fin said.

            The man guffawed. “Really? No shit! But in a hotel full of rooms, why’d you pick mine?”

            Fin stared blankly into the man’s face. He could finally make out details: a nose that had obviously been broken before (likely several times); sunken, but very alert, grey eyes; weathered skin that was starting to show signs of wrinkling; and dark hair with a salt and pepper beard. “It was just the room we went into.”

            The man sighed, glancing over at Grace who was still sitting on the couch. He waggled his hand holding the pistol at her.

            “He’s not wrong, “ she said. “Most of the other rooms we tried were locked. The door to this one was propped open.”

            The man titled his head at her. “You are Conduits, right?” He waggled the pistol from Grace to the swords by the door. “I mean, I imagine a lock would be pretty minor. Hell, if you didn’t want to magic a door open, you’ve got a friggin’ sword.”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 5:03 am”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:18pm

By JKolasch

The German shepherd was crouched next to a man leaning against the broken concrete barrier. The remnants of skyscrapers loomed into the late evening, the sunlight casting a contrasting glow against the fires burning across the city. The man shifted, crunching worn leather boots against the gravel and broken concrete of the sidewalk. He reached into the pocket of an equally worn brown trench coat that crumpled around him. The man looked at the smashed pack of cigarettes he had fished out and sighed. Pulling the least broken cigarette to his lips, he touched the tip with his finger. The cigarette cherried and he puffed, letting the smoke drift through the hair slipping into his eyes. The dog whined gently.

            “What? It’s not like they’re gonna see the smoke.” The man gestured vaguely in the air, smoke trailing from the burning the cigarette. “There’s plenty of haze and fire to hide one cigarette.”

            The dog cocked its head slightly, one ear drooping just a bit.

            “No. I’m not putting it out yet.” The man took a long drag, the hint of a satisfied smile touch his lips like the cigarette. “It’s not like I can just run to the store again. They’re all kinda closed for some reason.”

            The dog laid down, tucking its head between its front legs and whined, brown eyes staring into the mostly empty square beyond the concrete barrier they were hiding behind.

            “Seriously,” he said in a puff, “it’s not happening. Regardless of…”

            The man trailed off. He and his dog both watched as two figures, dressed in the black and (he could only guess based on the distance and available light) silver of Conduits. They were walking low, hiding behind a burning bus. Looked like the bus had some sort of safety slogan wrapped along its side. The group of Soulless he had been watching had so far ignored the two black figures, but they were pushing their luck. Sure enough, a Soulless noticed them. The creature lifted its arm and pointed.

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The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:00pm

By JKolasch

The Soulless were a ring of white bodies tinged with the flaming red of their hair around the cratered remains of what used to be Times Square. They all stood perfectly still, facing inward, with the hint of their mouths whispering. It was hard to tell from this distance what they were doing. But gatherings of Soulless like this were never good.

            Fin ducked back behind the once yellow and twisted remains of the taxi cab. He tried to ignore the black and bloody remnants in the seats. His head swam, momentarily overwhelmed by the acrid scent hanging in the air, the constant overwhelming reminders of death and defeat at every turn. He and Grace had slowly picked their way across the ruins of New Brooklyn from the Conduit bunker on their way back to Times Square. The sun was low on the horizon, but the brilliance of the sunset was lost in the glow of a city on fire. It was oddly quiet and still, considering the level of destruction around them and the horde of Soulless chanting in a circle several hundred yards from Fin’s position behind the taxi.

            “We have to keep moving.” Grace’s voice was low, barely audible in the oppressive silence around them.

            Fin glanced toward the Soulless again and opened his mouth to answer her. He simply nodded instead. He glanced around for a path forward that didn’t lead them to the Soulless. While most of the area was reduced to rubble, some buildings still partially stood. Not much had survived the earlier aerial assault and subsequent massacre the Soulless responded with.

            “There,” Fin pointed. A smoldering bus (Fin fought to keep the thought of what all was actually still burning out of his mind) provided cover to a small hill of rubble and a relatively intact building. It would provide enough cover to navigate around the Soulless. They seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings, but Fin didn’t want to take any chances.

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The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 1:30pm

By JKolasch

“Where do we start?” Fin was packing his bag: clothing, food, and other items they would need.

            “Honestly? I have no idea what Magister Rochester expects us to find.”

            Fin stuffed an extra ration into his bag and closed it. He looked at Grace, searching for her violet eyes in the dim bunker lighting. “It does seem like a bit of a longshot. But this Elementalist could really help us.”

            Grace finished packing her own bag and turned toward Fin. Her hair shrouded her face in as much shadow as the minimal light. “He could. If we could find him. If he exists.” She shouldered her bag. “Fin, the truth is, we don’t know what we’re looking for or where.”

            Fin dropped his gaze and briefly nodded. “He saved us in Times Square. That might be as a good a place as any to start looking.”

            A soft thump caused Fin to glance at Grace. She had set her bag down on the floor and was sitting on one of the benches in the locker room. He shifted his weight, eyes darting toward the empty bench space next to Grace.

            “Times Square isn’t exactly close to this bunker. Even if it was, you heard them. It sounds like the Soulless have overrun the city. Even if we can make it to Times Square, there’s still no guarantee the Elementalist would be there. And why would he? You remember what that place was like. The death, the destruction…”

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The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 1:00pm

By JKolasch

“As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this book is unique.”  Rochester leafed through the pages.

They were in an empty room of the underground complex.  There was a small, wooden desk, and a few chairs.  Grace and Fin were sitting close to the desk.

“And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, there are other forms of magic and creatures you’ve never heard of.”  Rochester slid the book over to them.  It was open to the page on Elementalists.  “When the order of Conduits was created, the original Magister thought this knowledge would prove dangerous, and undermine the authority he had won with his Conduits.”

“Why would the knowledge of other magic be dangerous?” Fin asked.

“Magic had always been at the fringe of society.  Yes, it was accepted, but it wasn’t until the defeat of the Soulless that the general populace understood that magic could be used to protect them.  Older magics are more primal.  They didn’t have a governing society controlling them, and people were afraid of what would happen with individuals possessing that much power.”

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The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 7:12am

By JKolasch

Fin woke to a room dimly lit with red lights.  The dull thuds of explosions echoed against the walls, causing them to rattle.  He felt a body next to his, and turning his head he saw Grace sleeping next to him.  He sat up slowly, careful not to wake her, and his body tensed against the pain from the abuse he had put it through.  He had pushed himself to the absolute limit, and the constant concussive forces he had been exposed to had not been kind either.  Across the small room, in another bed next to the wall, he saw Xander.  Xander stirred, and slowly sat up, looking back at Fin.

“Looks like we’re in a bunker.”  Xander glanced around at the concrete walls.

Fin nodded.  “Just a question of where.”  He stretched, trying to work the kinks out of his back and neck.  “Any idea how we got here?”

“No idea.  Maybe faeries whisked us away.”

Fin smirked.  “I swear I remember a dog,” he muttered.

“Hmm?  A dog?  I think the faeries are more likely.”

Fin slid to the edge of the bed and let his feet rest on the cold concrete floor.  “I think it was a German Shepherd?  Someone saved us.  Had a dog that attacked a Soulless about to kill me.  And then the guy burned the Soulless and killed it.  Pushed the rest of them back.”

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The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 6:36pm

By JKolasch

Three silver smears appeared on an empty street strewn with rubble.  Fin drew his sword, and the other two followed suit.  They walked silently across the broken street, alert.

Fin touched the diamond in the hilt of his sword.  <Times Square is just past that building.>

What was left of the building.  It was half collapsed, and littered the street with broken bricks, wires, couches, office desks, chairs, beds…  Fin’s boot stepped on something crunching and he almost slipped.  Looking down, he saw a hand.  Just a hand.  The skin was charred and crisp, and it had slid off of the ragged muscle and bone.  He froze.  Looking closer, he saw that burned and bloody corpses littered the debris, intertwined with broken beds and sheets torn apart.  He retched as the smell finally registered.  Cooked meat and the rancid, almost sweet, smell of death.  He closed his eyes, trying to keep his head from reeling out of control.  He felt hands grab a hold of him and steady him.  He opened his eyes and saw violet.  Grace’s face was smooth.  Her lips were pale and tight, almost like they were drawn on.

Her lips moved, mouthing words he almost didn’t catch.  We’ll get the bastards.

Fin nodded, and followed Grace across the rest of the debris, trying his best not to look at what was crunching and snapping under his feet.  Xander had gone ahead, and was crouched near the wall that was left, facing Times Square.  As Fin knelt down next to them, he remembered what Matthias had said.  There had been no evacuations.  Not even any attempts.  They…no, we, didn’t do anything to save anyone, he thought.  He didn’t have long to dwell on that thought.  A distant rumble, like thunder, echoed from the distance.  The jets were getting close.

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 6:36pm”
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