Listen to when C. Marry Hultman and Nick Abtahi discuss the march 16th episode of Impact Wrestling
The Guild’s music reporter Andrew Tobias has always tried to keep his finger on what is fresh on the music scene. The goal is to highlight a new release from an artist every week. Here is the first one:
It seems to me like John Darnielle and his band always have had a theme in their songs or their albums, even though they never really were that type of act. It also seems to me that they are headed in that very direction. Their previous album, Beat the Champ, had a clear thematic red thread in wrestling and wrestlers and the forthcoming album will treat the phenomenon of Gothic Music. I guess both cases can be argued; Darnielle’s clearly personal songs have always had an overhanging theme of alienation and being an outsider and that in itself might be seen as a concept, on the other hand one might claim that any artist’s catalog is one long concept and that what The Mountain Goats are doing now is structuring it through in actual album form.
Bassist Peter Hughes stated on the band’s homepage that this theme is dearer to his heart, as is true for the rest of the group and may very well be true for most people who grew up in the 80s. The Gothic music scene, I would venture to say, has been more important and influential than we might realize. So far only Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds has been released as a single and it sets the bar high for the coming Goth album. Eldritch, as the founder and remaining member of The Sisters of Mercy one could well argue that he is one of the more important characters of the scene. With the very recognizable sound that is the Goats the tune discusses all the feelings of middle age people who return to their old haunts after success and the adoration of all. It becomes deeply thought provoking and at times sad, with some hope at the end.
The song truly brings a longing for what The Mountain Goats will bring to the new album.
Series: Book 1 in Dark Gifts series
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Gilded Cage is the first book in Vic James’ series that goes by the name of Dark Gifts. A story that blends human tragedy, oppressive legislature and love in an alternative world.
Luke Hadley’s world changes only days before a big test when his parents and older sister Abi announce they will all be going to Kyneston. That would not be so bad for it is one of the most opulent and grand houses in all of Britain if it was not for the fact that this meant that he was starting his slavedays. In this alternative world the nobles, here known as equals possess a magic they call Skill. As a measure to create free labor as well as to keep the citizens under control people are forced to serve ten years as slaves, working menial jobs at various facilities, in return they are afforded certain rights. Abi, the med student, has arranged for her family; mother, father, Luke, young Daisy and herself, to work at the home of the most important of the equal families: The Jardines. This would entail a cushy ten years without the hard labor others might have to endure, but once everything has been sold or packed away and goodbyes been said the harsh reality sets in. When the bus comes to collect them it is revealed that Luke will not be joining his family at Kyneston, but is instead on his way to the slavetown of Millmoor.
As the Hadleys arrive at their new home the Jardines have their own issues. There are three son; the Heir Gavar who has spawned a child with a slave, Jenner who is without skill and Silyen who is looking to end the slavedays. The two families become unavoidably intertwines when Daisy is charged with caring for the bastard Libby and Abi becomes Jenner’s secretary. The world of the equals is filled with intrigue and clandestine affairs as the chancellor is preparing to make his yearly proposal, and Gavar Jardine his impending wedding. The proposal is to end the slavedays, forced by Silyen who is the only one who can wake the man’s fiancé from her coma. Meanwhile Luke is being drafted into a secret organization at the slavetown called the club that stages random incidents.
There are many stories being told here, a full cast of characters each having their own intrigue and plot and in the end, even if there is a resolution it gets to be a bit much. Several of the plotlines are told so briefly or are only hinted at that they do not have time to marinate and they could have been better off in a sequel. For it is quite obvious that Gilded Cage is but the first in a series of books. It’s not like the story isn’t interesting, quite the contrary it is more as if some plot elements would have benefited from being prolonged and moved, while others needed more time in this first installment. The character of Luke, who spends the first part of the book in Millmoor, is moved to Kyneston for reasons best left spoiler free, but his time in the slavetown is so short when it comes to page count that the reader never gets the feeling of the horror of spending ones slavedays there. In truth the plot revolving around the equals is more interesting and more in depth than that of the Hadleys and that is really too bad since they are supposed to have an equal amount of the story.
There is much to be had from Gilded Cage and what James wants to say about the times in which we live. The divide between the wealthier classes, call them one per centers if you will, have everything and others have to slave away to even become part of our society. At times the book is a perfect blend of the romance novels that Abi reads and sometimes it is a political fantasy story that may rival the intrigue of the Tudors or G.R.R. Martin. In the end Gilded Cage is a good launching point for the world James wants to create and it will be interesting to see where it takes us.
As a compliment to the podcast we already put out we have decided to give wrestling podcasting a try. This is a bit different in that we have two people discussing that have two different backgrounds. Our founder C. Marry Hultman has watched wrestling since he was young and has been a fan of Impact wrestling since he first saw it. Nick Abtahi’s only experience with wrestling is the odd WWE show on TV and that juxtaposition is what we found intersting, hopefully you do too. It will be out every Monday.
Henry Kyllo is a member of a secret society called the Inferne Cutis. A Runner whose goal is to achieve full-body lead content. He is chased through the city every day by Hunters whose goal is to shoot the Runners — with the threat to both sides that if they do not participate, through a mysterious force no one understands, one of their loved ones will simply vanish from the face of the earth.
Rumours abound about what happens when a Runner achieves “ascension”, but it has supposedly never happened before, so no one knows for sure.
Except that it has happened before. And it is happening again. This time, to Henry Kyllo.
Brett Savory recently stepped down as the Co-Publisher of the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Award-winning ChiZine Publications so he could dedicate more time to writing. His title is now Editor/eBook Czar/Webmaster, so he apparently thinks he can hang on in the company simply by increasing the titles he holds. He’s had over 50 short stories published – some of those collected in No Further Messages – as well as two other novels, In and Down and The Distance Travelled. He’s halfway through his fourth novel, Lake of Spaces, Wood of Nothing, is the drummer for the metal band Ol’ Time Moonshine – who just released their first full-length album, The Apocalypse Trilogies: Space Wolf and Other Dark Tales on Salt of the Earth Records – and lives in Peterborough, ON, Canada with his wife, writer/editor/publisher Sandra Kasturi.
Genre: Science-Fiction/Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Angry Robot
REVIEW Sometimes it is difficult to classify a work of fiction. One my enter into it with a genre in mind, but once the reading begins it becomes confusing because it does not follow the rules. Through the years there have always been those who claim that breaking the norms of classification is bad and that has always been the battle between the old guard and the young lions when it comes to culture. Brett Savory’s new book is a perfect example of how one might break the norm.
A Perfect Machine opens up in an unknown city in an unknown era, in an unknown universe. To be perfectly honest there are quite a few details in this tale that are unknown and that is one of the strengths. Henry Kyllo is a runner, part of a ritual that has been played for a long time in the city. A sort of hunt that usually leaves him laid out riddled with bullets, but that doesn’t really matter since he always bounces back. That is just one of the strange abilities afforded runners, that and the fact that they cloak the entire affair to those who happen to experience it, very much like a memory that fades away. The healing comes with a price and every time new bullets penetrate him Kyllo’s body is altered. One night Kyllo goes overboard and gets his final dose of lead, while his best friend Milo is decapitated, the only way to kill runners apparently.
Kyllo, thought to be dead by his nurse girlfriend Faye, begins to change instead and turn into a monstrous machine and Milo turns into a ghost, following his pal around.
At the same time the head of the runners, a man by the name of Palermo, has his own issues. A young man named Krebosche is looking to expose the gang and traditions of the run and exact revenge on those involved in the death of his sister and girlfriend. A girlfriend who happened to be Palermo’s daughter. The stories cross as everyone ends up at Faye’s apartment where Kyllo is turning into something completely new.
There is a lot going on in Savory’s tale and yet the reader is often times left feeling that they do not know what is happening. The plot is easy enough to follow, as are the various characters that come in and out, but it is all those things that surround the story, the setting and background that may leave you wanting more. A Perfect Machine is billed as a science-fiction, but lacks several of the qualities that belong to the genre, or at least it would appear so. We are never, initially at least, informed of what the runners and their counter parts the hunters are; the next step in human evolution, robots or aliens, there is no mention of year or parallel universe and the setting seems to be quite similar to our own. Question is if this is necessary or if it would remove focus from what is important or if it is a conscious measure to make the book lighter on technical jargon and speculative motifs that might alienate most readers.
There is something slightly absurd about A Perfect Machine, despite the language being strong in its simplicity, and the suspension of disbelief is difficult to set aside. There are so many things that happen; men turning into machine, ghosts in the vein Patrick Swayze, vengeance as found in the works of Mickey Spillane and humans hunting each other like Surviving the Game, at times it feels like you’re reading a Golden Age comic with better writing. Savory does make it work on some level, but one might ask if sticking to just a couple of speculative aspects wouldn’t have been better.
We here at W.A.R.G are proud to present our inaugural podcast episode; our interview with Eric Scott Fischl about writing and his debut novel Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show. There are probably quite a few issues to work out in the process and there is no plan for how often we will do these, but hopefully a few more.
The episode features the music of Krale and Disfigure from NCS.com
Dr. Alexander Potter, disgraced Civil War surgeon, now huckster and seller of snake-oil, travels the wet roads of the Pacific Northwest with a disheartened company of strongmen, illusionists, fortunetellers, and musical whores. Under the quiet command of the mysterious, merciless, and murderous Lyman Rhoades, they entertain the masses while hawking the Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic, a vital elixir touted to cure all ills both physical and spiritual… although, for a few unfortunate customers, the Sagwa offers something much, much worse.
For drunken dentist Josiah McDaniel, the Sagwa has taken everything from him; in the hired company of two accidental outlaws, the bickering brothers Solomon Parker and Agamemnon Rideout, he looks to revenge himself on the Elixir’s creator: Dr. Morrison Hedwith, businessman, body-thief, and secret alchemist, a man who is running out of time.
Eric Scott Fischl writes novels of speculative historical fiction and the supernatural. He lives in Montana’s Bitterroot mountains.
Publisher: Daw books
Back in September 2016 we reviewed the prequel to The Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Of Sand and Malice made, we called for more desert and more of the heroine Çeda and Bradley Beaulieu delivers nearly 600 pages of just that.
REVIEW With Blood Upon the Sand is book number two in the series The Song of the Shattered Sands and the readers once again get to follow the adventures of the once White Wolf Çeda. As to not spoil the first books for those who might become interested after this review we will avoid to delve too much into the plot. In her continued effort to bring about the downfall of the Twelve Kings, legendary tyrants of the desert landscape, Çeda has become one of the Maidens. As such she has the opportunity to fight them from the inside and free the asirim, slaves to the Kings, but loosing to The Moonless Host, a revolutionary type organization has made them vengeful and out for blood.
With Blood Upon the Sand is definitely what Empire Strikes Back was to A New Hope. It manages to delve deeper into the story and characters than the previous books, just like a sequel should, but that might be to simplify things. Even though Twelve Kings was a great read there were points one might have considered a bit too heavy and why not? The first book in a series is often used to set the scene, present the characters and add history. It gives the reader a chance to slowly immerse themselves in the setting, plots and various subplots. With that out of the way Beaulieu shows that he can flex his other muscles and flew them he does. There is a breeziness to the language of this book that was not as present in the first one. That is not to say that said language is simpler, on the contrary, but without the weight of giving detail to background and descriptions Beaulieu can concentrate on character interaction and driving the story forward; and this makes for a thrilling page turner.
What also feels different in the sequel is the fact that the story branches out in an almost vine like fashion. Twelve Kings mostly gave the reader Çeda’s point of view and her story and that was expected, but now Beaulieu flips the script and allows us more insight into the other players in this oriental drama. It is only one of the ways he manages to keep an already intriguing story alive, as well as introducing deeper plot twists, new magic and mythical objects. As stated in other reviews; the strength of a great story is to avoid the hackneyed tropes or at least reuse the same in a new and interesting way and Beaulieu shows us that he is a master of this time and time again.
At the heart of it all the same theme so common to fantasy stays true; The Heart’s Desire and the battle between good and evil, although what this desire might be or who stands on what side may be up for debate. The language is consistently strong, as is the plot, and it balances from everyday training and dialogue mixed in with an almost thriller like quality reminiscent of any Cold War drama. All in all the melding of tropes in a new cauldron brought to the boil truly results in a delicious and easily digested stew.
With Blood Upon the Sand is a perfect transition from the initial act of Twelve Kings to the inevitable climax of the next installment, it sets the stage perfectly and adds the right amount of actors, intrigue and backdrop for something awesome to come down the road.
So the call for more Çeda, more desert is coupled with more intrigue as well as cloak and dagger, bring it on and quickly.
With Blood Upon the Sand is released on February 7th and the first installments The Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and Of Sand and Malice Made are available wherever you might find books.
Here at The Guild we are always interested in having an array of culturally engaged people say their piece and therefore we invite the author Ani Fox to guest post today. Fox has recently released the book Autumn War, classified as a cyber-thriller, but more about him after a word from the man himself.
In Defense of Fun
I never thought I’d say this but… the Sad Puppies do have a point. Lost inside all that vitriol and under the carpet bombing emotionalism they managed to say one thing I found myself not entirely against. Fair disclosure – I know a lot of those authors personally. Or used to. We don’t talk much these days.
Literature should be fun, especially speculative fiction. I believe this. Not all literature is and we accept some awful journeys because the writer or the story or both are just that damned good. I’d rather drink broken glass than read Toni Morrison. Beloved just got cross listed as horror and rightfully so. Her works are soul stirring and profound. They also make me want to find a bell tower and jump. After electrocuting myself with a live grenade soaked in cyanide. They are anything but fun. They are painful but valuable work.
Boris Akunin on the other hand writes novels I blow through. He’s every bit as profound as Morrison and in translation his language can go toe to toe with the Nobel Prize winning master. He’s that good. Not a word out of place, not a phrase wasted. More than that, he can write in any genre he chooses. He’s the master of his own voice as well as the photo perfect pastiche. His stuff tends to be fun. Not only fun and sometimes fun comes last, but it’s in there. It’s worth the ride for the ride alone.
Morrison feeds you vitamin broth and brussel sprouts; Akunin pours you various kinds of coffee, some bitter and black, some sweet and mysterious. Now I like sprouts and have been known to drink veggie broth without physical threats. But I can distinguish them from ice cream and pizza. Readers can and do as well.
Robert Heinlein showed us how to sneak profound ideas under a canopy of action and adventure, to insert the philosophical into the fun. Like vitamin rich ice cream. Stranger in a Strange Land is the gateway drug to ontology and epistemology; Starship Troopers to political science and psychobiology. Students all around the world bitch and moan as Shakespeare and Homer are dusted off year after year in the English speaking world and rammed down their uncomprehending throats. But those guys knew how to have fun.
As You Like It, The Tempest, for you grimdark fans; Titus Andronicus. Genius and bloody good fun once you understand all the dirty puns and sly asides. Homer – whether a poet or a writer’s collective of poets across generations – ol’ H knew how to entertain. The Iliad and The Odyssey have vampires, gods, vengeance, sexcapades, disguises and reversals, boat and chariot chases (because car chases had to wait for Ronin), the antihero and lots, nay endless, arrays of naked women frolicking everywhere. It makes the Kardashians look the 700 Club Christmas Special.
Since we invented speculative fiction with The Epic of Gilgamesh (or Tale of Genji or Songlines of Red Belly Black…take yer pick), creators of the genre have buried the lead. We’ve wrapped up all the secret thinking and moral conversation in heroes, gods, vampires and demons, sex and murder, all the good stuff. Because these beings help us play out the situations we wish to investigate. The genre Speculates. It invents and interrogates a future of some sort or an alternate present, perhaps a better or worse or different past. As a way of making literature, it seeks to make history its bitch. And if we borrow from George Santayana, those who don’t end up being history’s bitch. Or you know, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Fun insulates the mind from the terrible pummeling it takes being exposed to ideas. Think fear of women in power ain’t relevant today. Then ponder Lady Macbeth and the 2016 election cycle. Literature holds us in its sway precisely because it entertains the whole mind from lizard brain and amygdala to the shiny blinking tips of the frontal cortex on maximum serotonin blitz. We still talk about the Scottish Play centuries later because Shakespeare injected that bloody little tragedy with adventure, intrigue, deception, faithlessness, lust and hatred. Trust me, we might dislike ourselves for admitting this, bit for humans that counts as fun.
Now I’m a writer and I like to think I sucketh not. But I’m no Toni Morrison. I know my limits and frankly I‘m nowhere good enough to get away with sticking my fingers into my reader’s heart, wiggling them around and forcing them to turn the page. I rely on props. Explosions, villains, hackneyed plots inverted, genres and stock characters twisted to make things interesting. So I emulate Akunin, who does all that but transcends the story. It’s a path to perfection one might reasonably follow.
Because given the choice, I’d be honored beyond comprehension to serve Toni dinner but I’d prefer to have Boris at the tale. I bet he’d be a lot of fun.
About Ani Fox:
Ani Fox lives in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – the heart of ancient Europe. He’s published short fiction in Jim Baen’s Universe as well as in the Ragnarok Publications anthology Corrupts Absolutely? The Autumn War is his first published novel. In his spare time he holds down a day job, serves as Editor in Chief for the European Review of Speculative Fiction and does what his cat tells him. He holds a BA in History from the Rutgers University, a PhD (ABD) in World History from the Australian National University and a PhD in Indigenous Theology from ULC Seminary; none of which make him more fun at parties.
Nothing is as it seems. After the mysterious death of his family, retired operative Spetz has come looking for answers, using himself as bait. The shadowy Syndicate has made him a job offer that a deranged cadre of Nazi super-soldiers, the various global Mafias, and a ship full of eco-fanatics would all prefer he decline. By midday, the U.S. Government has declared him a terrorist, and an unseen adversary has offered more than a billion dollars to have him killed.In this covert global war, Spetz is forced to call in some favors from former associates: a rogue Artificial Intelligence, an ice-cold femme fatale, and a rescue team of former Soviet saboteurs. Among his enemies are Zeus, a genetically engineered soldier who styles himself a god; Mika French, the best assassin alive, and Hans Gutlicht, a mad scientist with a grudge…and the man who raised Spetz. From the icy waters of the Canadian North Atlantic to the burning sands of Las Vegas, Spetz must keep two steps ahead of everyone, outfoxing some of the most brilliant and dangerous operatives alive. To unravel the conspiracies behind the Autumn War, he does the one thing he’s always resisted: join ‘The Game.’ But can he win it in time to stop his faceless enemy? For Spetz, it’s gotten very personal. Game on.
E-book editions of The Autumn War are available now. Print editions are expected to hit the shelves any day, so keep an eye out for this title in the wild!
Publisher Website: www.ragnarokpub.com
Young Anthony’s training was rigorous and contained a variety of exercises. His second father would take him out to the jungle to practice the kalis and kris while at the same time teaching him the others skills he might need in combat. It was important that the young man was as well rounded as possible and instead of becoming overtly muscular like some of the Balinese tribesmen who had arms like tree trunks, but could not move with the grace as a slimmer man. Wayan’s goal was to mold Anthony in his own image, lean and lithe with a clear definition. It was what had made him such a phenomenal and sought after soldier of fortune throughout the isles. Wayan sent him climbing trees to hone the strength in legs and finger strength and from the tops leap from milk wood to milk wood. Pushing off and grabbing on to the twisted branches and swinging on to the next one. He would hang upside down for hours, from time to time sitting up to tone his stomach muscles for a strong core was the key to controlling the body. Some mornings they would venture to the coast and leap from the white cliffs into the clear blue water repeatedly doing flips, spins and rolls into the deep. As the years passed Anthony notice his body changing from the softness of childhood to the toned solidity of a Balinese warrior. He scaled the trees and rock walls with ease, somersaulted without using his hands and could avoid the reeds that Wayan tried to slap him with while he tried to slice the sticks placed in a circle around. As he matured into a young man he was also evolving into a tanned and toned soldier.
Entering the building had been the easy part. Everything had been as they had been told. The guards were doing their rounds so were away from the front desk so they avoided unwanted questions and whatever nurses who might have been on duty in the middle of the night paid little attention to them as they walked with a purpose. Thorne carried a snub nosed revolver in a holster under his suit jacket, while Charles and Jensen each had sawed off shotguns strapped under their armpits, hidden by their coats. Sure it would make noise once they offed the police officers and the snitch, but that was how they liked it and at this hour they would be out of the hospital long before the boys in blue had a chance to even get into their cars. The security guards they wanted to avoid before they reached their destination since they most likely ask them some uncomfortable questions and they would be forced to kill them on the spot and they didn’t want to have to do that so early on. Quickly they entered the elevator and rode it up to the fifth floor. It landed there with a friendly ‘ding’ and the doors gently eased open to reveal the white corridors of level five. The first hing that greeted them, and with open arms no less, was the likeness of the Virgin Mary. A full body statue made from red stone stood before them, eyes downcast with a look of sadness on her face. Charles, the religious one of the group, swallowed hard, which he always did when confronted with his Catholic beliefs and made the sign of the cross as the others passed with smirks on their faces, Jensen even rolled his eyes.
As they moved along the corridor, past several doors, with only the sound of their shoes on the wooden floor, they could hear voices, most likely coming from the reception area. Thorne stopped and put his arm to halt his friends. He listened intently, two voices; a man and a woman. Probably a nurse and a security guard or possibly a cop. He put his hand in his under his coat and cocked his revolver and at the same time he could hear Jensen and Charles ready their shotguns. He nodded and they continued to walk.
Luckily enough it had not rained the past couple of days, but the night air added its own brand of dampness to the roof on which Tony was crawling. Seeing as how he was still wearing The Face it was foolish to try to enter the hospital through the front entrance and he felt he had gotten quite adept at opening windows from the outside. He walked on all fours, gingerly placing one foot and one hand down at the same time, looking like a camel against the moonlight. He could of course have walked upright, the roof of the building was completely flat, but he didn’t want to raise suspicions among nightwalkers, who might begin to wonder at the shape atop the hospital in the middle of the night. He had scoped out the structure from across the street before scaling the walls and believed he knew where the room was located. Climbing the brick building was not a problem as he swung from nook to cranny, rested on window ledges until he finally swung over the roof top. He had chosen to move up on the back of St. Mary’s so he would be forced to cross the roof due to the fact that room 506 was facing Grand Avenue that ran outside. Anything to avoid detection. Once he had reached the opposite end he leapt down onto a balcony that replaced the seventh floor level at the end facing the street. Swiftly he jumped up on the railing turned so that his back faced the street and dropped down, only to catch the edge of the balcony with his hands, allowing him to hang from it. He had positioned himself so that he was hanging perpendicular to the window below, all he needed to do was drop down and catch himself on the sixth floor windowsill and he did. He felt his shoulders strain from the pull of the drop and catch, but his toned arm muscles could handle it. He swung from side to side in order to steady himself. He through a glance below to make sure that there still was a window there. He wanted to move quickly because he was out in the open for all to see, the exact thing he was trying to avoid. He repeated the previous motion and once again felt the strain as his fingers caught the edge of the sill, he winced, this time it hurt. As he passed the glass he saw the light from the inside and two policemen standing with their backs to the window.
As they turned round the corner that led from the corridor to the reception area the trio saw the big desk and behind it a blond nurse most likely in her twenties. She was in an engaging conversation with one of the elderly security guards who was leaning over the desk and resting on his elbows as they walked up in a neat row. The guard fell silent when he noticed them and the nurse soon followed suit once she noticed that something was amiss. The setting was ideal for them, they had met their first obstacle exactly where they had wanted it to happen, in the open area of the reception. The hallways would have been too narrow to maneuver and their would have always been the risk of being hit by a random spray of shotgun pellets. They had a clear view of the corridors that branched off from the hub as well as the two adjoining wash rooms. The guard straightened up and pulled his pants up by way of tugging at his belt, unclear if it was supposed to look menacing or not. He moved some gray strands that had fallen behind his right ear and moved it across the bald spot that was the top of his head.
‘Hello there fellas, what do you need?’ He said in a quivering voice, placing his right hand on the pistol at his hip. There was perspiration on the top of his lip and his fingers twitched.
‘ Where here to visit a buddy.’ Thorne took charge. ‘Martin Lindquist in room 506.’
‘Visiting hours are over.’ The nurse said, with quite the decisive tone, as she picked up the black receiver of her internal phone.
‘I think we’ll see him anyway.’ Thorne shrugged and looked at the others.
‘We have special permission.’ Charles chimed in.
The nurse went for the numbers on the telephone as the guard upholstered the pistol. ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’ He said in a harsh, but broken tone.
Thornes revolver barked loudly as he fired at the nurse. As she was turned towards him at that instant, with her finger hovering above the call button the bullet hit her squarely in the center of her forehead sending a spray of blood, skull fragments and gray matter behind her. Limply her body collapsed to the floor, bouncing off the desk first. The movement of leveling the weapon at the now expired woman had caused Thorne to stand sideways so when the security guard’s pistol fired it tore a hole in his coat instead of his chest. The elderly man emptied his clip continuously in the same general area in quick succession and as the weapon clicked a blast from Thorne’s right side sent the lower half of his body to explode in a wave of red. The shotgun blast from Jensen had nearly cut him in half and he was now gasping for breath in a pool of crimson and innards. Once the ringing in their ears had stopped they could hear the footsteps of the police officers approaching.
Tony hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to enter the building. First off he hadn’t scoped out where the police officers watching over the man would be standing. In his ignorance he had figured they would be in room 506, but they were obviously standing outside, that complicated things. He looked to the left, where he assumed the room was located, but there was no window there, and he was just about to swing to his right when he noticed that the officer moved down the corridor at some speed. Tony pulled himself up do that he was resting on straight arms, unsheathed his kris with his right hand while balancing on the left and slid the blade under the window frame. He pushed down on it and the window opened and to avoid having to go through it again he quickly shoved his fingers in the crack before it fell back down. The kris fell and he saw it tumble down to the ground below, he’d have to recover it once he was done. With some effort he pushed the window upward wile still balancing on his left hand and swung both his legs over the sill so that he could slide inside. He heard shouting and the unmistakable deafening sounds of gunfire coming from down the hall. He unsheathed the kalis and brought it round, he shook his arms to get the blood flowing through them, he was not prepared for whatever might lie ahead and he was not too keen on the prospect of a fight with rubbery, lactic acid filled limbs. He noticed that he was standing outside room 506 and slipped behind the door. The room was dark except for the machines that lit up the form of the young man who lay in the bed, covered by a single sheet. His eyes were open, the noise from outside most likely had woken him up, Tony could see two tiny pinpricks reflected in the orbs. It was tense, the man obviously could not quite see him as he stood there; a silhouette against the light that escaped the door.
The old man let out one final breath as Jensen walked over to him. He had wanted to end it with another blast, but he had been saved the trouble of wasting another shell. Suddenly one of the bathroom doors burst open and another elderly guard appeared, gun held high. This one had a flat top haircut and a barrel chest reminiscent of a marine. At the same time the two police officers came round the corner, both aiming slide action shotguns at anyone who might be in their way and screaming at the trio to drop their guns and get down on the ground.. Jensen became confused at where to focus his attention being that he was in the middle of two threats and that Charles could not use his weapon for fear of hitting him as well. Thorne took out one of the policemen by firing three shot into his chest and he fell over and skid across the floor leaving a trail of red. At the same instant the guard fired at Jensen, who tried to spin out of harms way, but was struck in the shoulder. He dropped to a knee, just as the second officer fired sending shots his way and blowing his hat off and scraping his scalp. It gave Charles the opening he needed and aiming high he sent a hail of shots towards the head of the second officer, who catching only some of it, dropped his rifle and doubled over. The guard, still standing on the threshold of the bathroom leaning against the door to hinder it from closing on him and forcing him to move, pointed his gun at Jensen who was still kneeling in the lake of blood. He squeezed the trigger, but the thug had already rolled forward in a tumble over the dead body of the other guard causing his coat to become soaked in crimson, coagulating liquid. Charles was busy reloading his weapon thinking to himself that he should have brought something capable of firing more than two shots at a time, rather than going for an item with the destructive power of his double barreled sawed off piece. Thorne spent his remaining two bullets in his revolver on the guard who vanished back into the bathroom with the door taking the hits as it swung back and forth on its hinges. Thorne cursed and tossed his weapon to the side and headed over to the downed officer. Jensen rolled to his feet in front of the wounded policeman who was clutching his face after the pellets had dug themselves into his skin and he shoved the double barrels of his gun into the man’s chest. The blew right through the upper torso, coloring the ceiling a deep red and making parts of lungs, the heart and bone fragments rain down. Jensen used the man’s body as an umbrella, still holding the body up with his shotgun. After the rain had stopped Jensen dumped the body to the side and rose, covered in blood and gore, he turned to Thorne who had just ripped the weapon from the hands of the other police officer and was joined by Charles, whose shotgun was locked and loaded.
‘We’re wasting time.’ Thorne claimed. ‘We need to get on with it. The traitor need to be silenced and the guard in the bathroom need to be dealt with so that we can get out of here. I’m sure we’ve made enough noise to alert the authorities.’
‘If nothing else these guys have already used their radios to call the station.’ Charles pointed to the police radios attached to the shoulders of the dead men.
‘I’ll take the old man in the toilet.’ Jensen said as he reloaded his shotgun, after pulling it out of the dead body. ‘You guys take care of that Lindquist kid.’ He went for the doorknob of the bathroom but found that it was locked. He sighed and nodded to the others to go.
Martin Lindquist was paralyzed in his hospital bed. He had been woken from a feverish dream, glowing red eyes coming at him in the dark, by gunfire. There was running outside his the room and he slowly came to the realization that his days were numbered. He knew enough of organized crime and the one he had infiltrated in particular how these things usually went down. He had once been part of a similar incident when going out with Baz Peterson. A small time dealer had threatened to blow the whistle, to go to the cops, and the big boss had wanted him taken care of. Baz, Martin and some guy referred to as Rosy Anderson went uptown to meet the man. He ended up being dumped off the sixth street bridge and into the Root River with several bullet holes in his body. Rosy had wanted to torture and string him up as a warning, but Black Diamond, whoever or whatever that was, wanted no trail, nothing that could lead to questions. Even though Martin had taken no part in the killing he had witnessed the cold action by the two men. They had given no quarter, just entered his apartment, pulled him out and emptied their guns into his body, he hadn’t even gotten the chance to defend himself. This was what awaited him. Sure the police officers on duty might be able to delay the inevitable, but if the men coming for him were anything like Peterson they didn’t stand a chance.
The door to his room gently opened and he steeled himself for what was about to come, but instead of the barrage of bullets that he was expecting to riddle his body a figure slipped in through the small crack of the opening. He it happened so fast and the light from the outside temporarily blinded him so that he couldn’t make out the figure clearly. As his eyesight slowly adjusted back to the dark of the room he stared at the person, who remained at the door seemingly listening for what was going on outside the room. It looked as if the figure was naked, but as he concentrated Martin could see the shape of boots on the feet and gloves covering the hands and the head… The head had a strange shape, not the type of irregular silhouette created by back lit hair, but caused by something else and when the figure looked at him he saw the red glow of two very familiar eyes; it was the thing from his dreams. He started to squirm and as he did the thing quickly moved towards him, in his hands it carried that nasty, wavy blade he had used to separate Martin’s leg from the rest of him. He began to shudder and opened his mouth to scream when a gloved hand covered his mouth. The light from the little lamps on the machinery next to his bed lit the beast partially and showed a figure dressed in a skin tight suit in blue and red, a spiked belt at the waist and a terrible, angular face with fangs and a sharp nose, piercing red eyes staring right through his very soul.
The figure slowly raised the blade to its mouth that at the moment was closed so that the fangs protruding from the lower jaw was the only thing visible. ‘Be quite.’ It hissed in the voice of someone wearing a mask, a man. ‘I’m not here to hurt you, I need your help, but we don’t have time to talk now.’ The sounds of battle had stopped and Martin could hear two sets of feet come closer to his room. ‘Hang a pillowcase in the window outside your room if and when you want to talk so that we can take this organization down.’
Martin nodded and the dressed up man slowly backed towards the door.
Down the hall Charles and Thorne could hear Jensen trying to force the bathroom door open by shouldering and alternately kicking it, but without success and he didn’t want to waste another shell by blowing the lock off. It was understandable that he didn’t want stand with only one round left, facing a possible hail of bullets. With their weapons at the ready Thorne grabbed the door handle of room 506 and turned it. Without warning the door flew open with force and knocked Thorne over, crashing into his head first. He rolled over to the wall and tried to find his bearings. His hat had flown off and there was a deep gash in his forehead causing blood to flow down his face. He was disoriented, probably concussed and attempted to resume his upright position climbing the wall with his left hand. Charles had jumped back when the door opened and had seen his colleague get knocked down. Instinctively he pulled the trigger of his gun and blasted a hole in the door. It swung back slowly and he could clearly see that there was no one behind it. He sidled up next to the hole with his gun raised and slowly moved his hand towards the handle trying to avoid the crater left from his shot. It caused his arm and the right side of his upper torso to cover the door, but he had no other choice, he wasn’t about to become visible through his own handy work. It was still, apart from Jensen working on the bathroom and Throne struggling to get to his feet and breathing heavily.
Tony had stepped back into the dark once he had kicked the door open. He had planned for it to catch whomever was trying to enter by surprise and he was fairly certain it had succeeded, at least the door had hit a body on the other side and the shotgun blast affirmed his belief that hostility was behind it all. As he backed off he caught a glimpse through the hole and saw a man in a trench coat and dark suit clambering against the wall with blood pouring from a nasty wound in his head. It made him fairly certain that whoever were in the hallway had bad intentions on their minds. The door moved ever so slightly, as if it shivered at the touch from someone on the other side. Tony rolled his shoulders to try to loosen them up from the strain of the climb. Once the handle began to move again he flipped the blade so that it pointed towards the floor and the pounced. The point of the kalis dug through the wood like so much soft butter and he felt it cut into something very different on the other side. A man cried out and Tony pulled his weapon free, tumbling backwards on the floor and coming to standing position, reversing his momentum he ran forward and like a long jumper he leapt into the air and planted both his boots on the door, sending it flying off its hinges. He landed on his back, relaxing his body to avoid injury and risk of losing his breath.
Just when Charles had reached the handle of the door he felt a sharp, biting pain in his shoulder blade. He had always prided himself in not showing weakness when hurt, but the pain from whatever it was now digging into his body was too much for him to bare. White hot and ice cold at the same time as steel cut through muscle, sinew and tissue, grinding against bone and then the intrusion vanished, but the pain remained. He slumped against the door, feeling the warmth of his blood freely flow under his suit, down his entire body and pooling in his shoes. Thorne had risen and was leaning against the opposite wall, his friend’s cry of pain had jarred him and now the were staring at one another, both bloodied, both breathing heavily, both furious. He could see it in Charles’ eyes, there was a fiery rage there that usually spelled the end for those who might try to oppose them. They had both been hurt before, it was nothing new to people in their line of work. They had powered through it and always ended on top, that is how you stayed relevant and in demand, it was not going to be any different this night. Whomever was hiding in that room, be it Lindquist, another cop or something else they were going to meet their maker and it was going to hurt. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Thorne cocked his revolver he had managed to recover from the floor. It was sticky with his blood, but it would serve its purpose. Before he could make another move the door flew out once again, this time off the frame itself, most likely due to the integrity of it had already been compromised. Charles was knocked off his feet and flew like a rag doll across the hallway and crashed into the same wall Thorne was leaning against. Sliding to the floor his body left a bloody print on the white paint tracing his trajectory. Thorne stared into the opening left by the missing door and saw a pair of red points in the dark and figure that slowly rose from a crouching position and as it unfolded a long wavy sword appeared at its side. He raised his revolver and fired, but the figure was no longer there, instead it was next to him. A quick movement before Thorne’s face and the revolver clattered to the floor with his hand still clutching it. He stared at his hand as it bounced on the floor and he blinked at it in disbelief and then looked up, staring into a horrible face with huge incisors, red piercing eyes and a nasty snarl and then he faded into darkness.
The man he had seen through the hole in the door previously collapsed on the floor following his hand, briefly the united in a heap. Another man, dressed exactly like the first one lay against the wall, blood flowing in a constant stream from somewhere. Tony assumed it was the one who had been behind the door the second time. The man was panting heavily and stared at him in fear, at the Face to be more precise. He momentarily glanced over to his right and Tony followed his gaze to a sawed off shotgun. He kicked it down the hall and the man shook in fear at what was going to happen next, but Tony let him be, he needed survivors and in the following instant he heard a shotgun blast and the sound of splitting wood coming from the reception area, he hurried off, leaving the two men to their bleeding.
Jensen had become fed up with trying to break down the door by his physical force alone. He was wasting time and the law would arrive at the scene at any moment. He needed the witness done with and out of his hair so to speak. There was commotion over by room 506, his colleagues were seemingly running into more trouble than they had bargained for, but he was fairly convinced that they would deal with it accordingly. One shot from his gun was all it took to blow the door open. He aimed for the lock and half the door and some of the frame had sent splinters flying both through the bathroom and the hallway. His ears played that familiar ringing tune in his ears that only a well played shotgun could produce. The door swung out on its hinges and was followed by a couple of bullets that passed through his coat. He stepped back and loaded another shell into the spent chamber and walked inside to an empty bathroom. The sinks were to his right and on the opposite were three stalls, all of which had their doors shut tight. This was going to be both easy and fun for him. He chuckled as he took careful steps forward and then he caught something in the mirrors hanging above the sinks. It appeared to be a figure in a tight fitting suit of red and blue, but the thing that had caught his eye at first were the two points of light that seemingly emanated from two eyes situated in a ghastly face. He spun round and fired a round back from where he had come, but the doorway was empty and now he stood there with only one round left in his smoking shotgun. The figure stepped into the doorway again, Jensen was relieved that his mind hadn’t played a trick on him. It stood at least six feet, lean and muscular dressed in a skintight fabric and that awful face was obviously a mask now that he got a good look at it with its fangs, protruding red eyes and horn like appendages. The man, for a man it most likely was, held a wavy sword in his right hand, slick with blood. Jensen didn’t think he acted and fired his second shot at the man who slid across the floor to avoid the blast and caught his shin with his boot. Jensen toppled forward, gun flying, and would have landed on his opponent had he not rolled past him. He landed hard, losing his wind and getting tangled in his coat. The trio was unused to this kind of combat, they would more often than not get in, kill and then leave. After what seemed like forever he managed to get to a standing position and in the process had fished his switchblade from his back pocket. The man in the mask was also up, standing with his sword at his side, facing Jensen who was crouching with his own blade at the ready. He lashed out aiming for the man’s abdomen, he wanted his death to be painful and slow. The figure sidestepped and Jensen jabbed at thin air and as he hyper extended he left himself open to a knee to the ribs. Once again the wind went out of him and he felt the wet snap of bones breaking in his chest. Struggling for breath he moved sideways and fell against one of the stall doors, one hand on his torso and the other still clutching the knife. The figure strode towards him with great calm, the blade still calmly at his side. Jensen thought he could hear the sounds of sirens in the distance and coughed as he tried to take a deep breath. He furrowed his brow and let out a gargled scream as he flew at the enemy.
Tony sidestepped the man, also dressed like the two he had already combated, who came at him while trying to scream although it more sounded like the gurgling when someone drinks from a bubbler. He blocked the switchblade coming at him with his left arm and then pierced his gut with the kalis, pushing his entire weight back so that it went clean through and dug deep into the door behind. The man’s eyes went wide and Tony could see his pupils dilate as he struggled with the reality of his new found situation. Blood bubbled up through his mouth and his hands struggled to grab The Face in one last desperate attempt at winning the battle. Tony quickly released him by pulling the kalis out, out from the wood of the door and the soft tissue of the man’s abdomen. With a final gasp his eyes went blank as he slowly slid down to the tiled floor and lay in an unnatural pile. Tony has also heard the sirens outside and decided then and there that he dared not take a chance at talking to Lindquist when the police more than likely were bounding up the stairs. To go out through the window he came would be madness, he would most likely get caught or at least be noticed, he ran back to the reception area calculated in his head where the streets outside lay from his vantage point and then moved through another room where an old woman lay petrified with her covers pulled up to her chin as he flung the window open and vanished into the night.