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.
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:18pm”
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.
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:00pm”
“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…”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 1:30pm”
“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.”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 1:00pm”
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.”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 7:12am”
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”
The command room was a flurry of activity. Soldiers, Conduits, and police were running back and forth between the General, Commissioner, and Magister. Live satellite feeds, maps, videos, and Damp Field indicators flickered across the screens. In the middle of the room, the leaders gathered around a large desk, a digital map of New Brooklyn sprawling across it, with dozens of red lines running outside of the city.
“It’s too late to think about evacuation. Over half the city is dark, and skirmishes are everywhere. Every time one ends, another pops up somewhere. Those pale bastards are everywhere.”
“Then what do you suggest we do, General? Allow civilians to be massacred with no hope? No chance?” Commissioner Wallace’s arms were crossed tightly over his heavily decorated jacket.
General Matthias tapped on the screen, and pulled up a feed of New Harlem. It was desolate and barren. Burning rubble and debris filled the screen. So did bodies. Arms, legs, hands. Not attached to anything. Carnage and blood littered the ruined section.
“I know what happened in New Harlem, General. Why are you showing me this?” Wallace covered his mouth with his hand and turned away.
“That,” Matthias said, switching from feed to feed, showing more and more death and carnage, “was a victory. The Conduits won there, remember?” He glowered at Magister Rochester.
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 5:47pm”
“Is this real?” Grace was sitting next to Fin, flipping through the delicate pages of the book. She brushed a stray, blonde strand of hair aside, tucking it behind her ear.
“It looks so old.” Xander scratched at a page, bits of parchment and ink flaking onto his chipped fingernail. “It wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t real, though. The archivists are very particular about what they keep in here.”
The illustration of the pale figure with flaming red hair stared at them from the page. Fin could feel the coldness of those black eyes staring into him, the same half smile as it had created a Thief out of the ash and vanished. “It is strange. There are creatures and magics I’ve never heard of. And the Soulless are right here with them.”
Grace’s brows furrowed. “How did this get into the archives? Different magic? There aren’t any other kinds of magic. Just us.”
Xander grunted, sitting down. He pulled the book toward him. “Well, let’s see what it says, and if anything lines up with what we do know.”
“Here.” Fin pointed. “The Soulless are former humans, typically Conduits, that used Soul magic.”
Xander shrugged. “Everyone knows that. Wait, what the hell is this?” He pulled the book over. “There’s a note in the margin: Soul magic. What a bloody twisted sack of lies. They wanted people to burn their souls.”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 1:23pm”
Xander was sitting behind a mountain of books. His scarred face peeked out as Grace and Fin walked into the archives.
“About time you two showed up. I was wondering if I was going to have to read all of these on my own.”
“Did you find anything?” Grace asked, plopping down into an overstuffed chair.
“Well, did you know that the first Conduits were chosen to battle the Soulless?”
Fin sat down in a chair next to Grace. “Uh, yeah. We learned about that in school. Long before we were tested to see if we could become Conduits.”
Feigned shock spread across Xander’s face. “What? We did? I must’ve been sick that day!”
They continued to joke around and laugh for a bit, before settling into serious reading and browsing. Occasionally, one of them would get the attention of the others, but most of their discoveries seemed to only be dead ends. They were momentarily interrupted when the archive clerk brought them all lunch. After thanking her, they ate silently, pouring through book after book. They neared the end of their stack of books without finding anything of value.
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 8:29am”
Fin woke to silence. He lay in bed, staring at the white ceiling. It was a small room, white walls and white carpet. His blankets and sheets were white. In the corner was a small black marble desk next to a black dresser. There were no windows in the Conduits rooms; the quarters were located within the command building, using the surrounding building as protection against outside attacks. His alarm clock told him it was morning. He stretched, his body tensing against the strain of yesterday. A thin, pale scar crossed him, a reminder of his fight against the Thief. A soft knock at the door startled him, and he sat up.
“Fin? Are you awake?” Grace’s voice drifted through the door.
“Yeah, what’s up, Grace?”
The door opened, allowing Grace to slip inside, and it shut again. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore. But alive. Trying to wrap my head around what all happened yesterday. And what today will bring.”
Grace was dressed in the black of the Conduits, the silver crossed sword and lightning bolt embroidered across her breast. Her blonde hair half hid her face, leaving a violet eye to peer at Fin. “There were a few more skirmishes last night. The Damp Fields over Central Park and Queens fell.”
“We’re not going to be able to hold the city are we?”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Two, 7:42am”