Brotherhood of Steel - The Chronicles

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Author: Diablo

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Chapter 1: Too much wind for a single leaf

Wandering through the night without purpose was the only thing I could do. Just me and the bottle. My happiness relied on the contents of the bottle and trust me, it was not mineral water. That is all that I remember before she came to my life.

'Good evening soldier.' She cannot be addressing me, no way a noble of her kind would speak to one such as me, at least not tonight. Hair so dark that it would make charcoal blush and the green hypnotising eyes that could burn through one's skull made this lady one in a million. A femme fatale. My inner desired made a futile attempt at etting my attention. No, I better carry on. I have problems of my own and I am not in the mood for any more. What the pirate's leg does she think she is doing? She started walking beside me. 'It is night time mylord and I am on my own, would thee please accompany me on my way home?' she said as softly as it can be said. I was shocked and reacted without thinking. 'Excuse me, but is thee a lady of the night?' was my drunk reply. A slap was her response. My body responded well, without any hint of trying to save itself it fell to the ground. She giggled. Giggled! 'Perhaps thou are the one in need of a company soldier.' she said while giggling. Beaten up by a girl, well, a lady as I could see. Astonishing. There was something strange. Stranger than usual. I have been through some fights and this slap would end a few of them easily. I was drunk but not stupid. It is not thanks to my foolishness that I'm still alive. I can count on my instincts, they have never failed me. But do i really have to play her game? 'Do I have a choice?' I had to know what is going on. 'Yes soldier, thou does indeed.' she replied with a smile. My suspicion grew and if it wasn't for the look in her green eyes I would have resisted. Usually eyes remind you of someone you know. These eyes did not. They were strange, commanding and demanding at the same time as they were beautiful and gentle, showing that the person behind those eyes knows suffering as well as joy. I shook my head, got hold of myself and stood there beside her as tall as I am. It was now that I realised how small she is. Petite one would say. My drunk mind wanted to say a compliment but I forced it to silence and I threw the bottle away. Farewell happiness... We were walking side by side but in complete silence. I didn't know what to say and she took comfort in silence, or at least it seemed so. The silence was broken suddenly. 'I owe thy an apology.' she declared without looking at me. 'Me too, where are my manners?' being brought up well and educated has some drawbacks 'I am known as Peter, what is thy name mylady if I may ask?' 'Thou may. I am known as Daniela. Pleasure to meet you.' she said and added a smile. 'Just Daniela, and please do not reveal thy whole name to me, Peter is good enough.' My mind was screaming. This was wrong! No sane lady, nor a missis would let someone accompany her without knowing the name of her companion. Not in times like these, times where a sword was considered to be a representative of justice and law depended too much on the wielder of the sword. Daniela stared at the night sky. 'I indeed am a lady of the night.' 'What?! Oh, I mean, pardon.' what a clever response, I was trying to sober up but did not succeed. Even if she was a lady of the night, why would she choose me? I had not enough gold on me to afford company and my looks only showed the fact to everyone who looked at me. My loos were those of an average working class. Not a slave, but not a master either. 'Not like that soldier, I just prefer the night, rather than the day.' If there was a hint of irony I would spot it, but there was none. She carried on. 'The night is beautiful, it hides one in shadow, makes one feel relieved of all the troubles of the day. It may make one a slave of the bottle, I admit. Still, i like to wander through the night, looking at the shining moon and stars. It makes me feel the size of the world. If I am small in comparison with the whole world, how could my troubles be any bigger?' She smiled as if this night was the best night ever and she was here to enjoy it. We walked and talked the whole night long. The darkness around seemed to separate us from the rest of the world, as if creating a bubble just for the two of us. I talked about my life, she revealed bits from hers. I tried to show myself in a good light a bit to impress her but it did not work so I ceased the effort. Even thou we talked a lot I did not get to know her any better than before.

She left before dawn. I was searching the streets for her the whole day with no success. It is hard to find a lady without knowing her name. There can be plenty of Danielas here. Exhausted I gave up with the dusk. My mind took the memory of her, put it in a dusty shelf called 'the pleasant moments of my life' and it was over. Now I will have a drink and then we will see what happens. That was always the plan. Having a drink is better plan than no plan and now I had a reason to drink. I looked at the tavern sign of The Young man's heart. For some reason the heart was pierced by a sword. I couldn't come up with a acceptable reason why it should be so. 'Thou shall not drink too much soldier.' followed by a small giggle made me literally freeze in place. My mind panicked but I managed to deal with the situation. 'Good evening mylady, how may I be of help?' i was trying to hide the sudden relief from meeting her again. 'Walk with me diablo.' How on earth could she know my name? My Name! Only a few soldiers had Names and only a few knew my Name, half of them dead the other half missing. If not even more. If my past was trying to catch up with me again it is high time to have a drink. I must have been standing there motionless for quite a while cause Daniela asked if I am well. 'I am afraid I have to know how it is possible that thy know my Name.' I demanded. 'I can tell by the look in thy eyes' she said smiling, almost laughing. 'This is not tolerable! Tell me woman or I will...' Slap. 'No, thy will not!' If it wasn't for my manners I would hit her back. Given the situation it would be justified. People with Names are not good to mess with. Not again. 'I will tell thee by a fireplace with a glass of good Pinot Noire in my hand. Shall we?' I don't know why, but I followed. The wine was more than delicious and it smelled of joy and sun. It reminded me of a jolly moment from my childhood, a moment precious to my heart because there were no problems back in those days. 'We shall not waste any more time with games. I chose thee for a purpose and that purpose thee shall serve.' said a voice that has never asked anyone to do something, this voice was ordering. 'Do I still have the choice we spoke about earlier?' I said in an attempt to take the upper hand in the situation. 'I'm afraid thy does not. Not anymore.' and again there was the charming smile. She was playing with me and I don't like to be played with. I can be a good partner but I can't stand to be a slave. 'Mylady, I am sorry but we do not have anything more to discuss. If thy excuse me now, I will leave.' 'We do have a lot to discuss soldier, sit down and listen!' she said and the words were filled with power that I could not resist. 'I chose thee. I will give thee a gift and a curse at the same time. Thy shall become immortal. As funny as it may seem to thee now, know that with immortality comes responsibility.' Her fangs came out and the coward in me took over and tried his best to escape. The fight was over before I blinked. She drained my blood as a demon I read stories about. My life force was leaving my body, mind still there to realise it. I was indeed dying. She stopped. I cannot say for sure but I think I heard her saying 'I'm sorry.' 'Does thee want to live?' No response. 'If thee wants to live then thy shall drink from my blood!' she commanded and I drank. I drank until she wouldn't let me anymore. The essence of life was filling my body again.. I don't remember much from the next few days, just the agonising pain I was going through and Daniela's gentle voice saying that it will be fine.

'What have I become?' I asked. 'A vampire, a creature of the night, a darkness in shadows, a well of knowledge and finally a soldier.' 'What?!' was the only thing I could say. The words 'Thou shall not speak with your maker like this. Learn some manners!' followed by a slap were my first lesson. The slap was not as bad as the one before, but I have limited patience. She saw the anger in my eyes and changed her tone back to normal. Regardless, I have learned the lesson.

I was told what a vampire is, the strengths and weaknesses, everything I had to know. The 'training' lasted for almost a week and many questions were left unanswered.

I learned how to feed, how to hide myself from humans and how to use my powers. The most important thing I learned was how to be moral. A human is nothing but food for a vampire, but among vampires there is a hierarchy. The older a vampire is the more powerful he is. With age comes wisdom and it is determined shortly after one is turned how his personality is going to evolve. There are vampires who almost completely abandoned their humanity and became beasts. They don't speak nor do they care about anything but food and dominance in their territory. These vampires are not very dangerous until they become very old. It is a very rare thing, but one of the most powerful in combat. Then there are vampires who spend their lives in solitude searching for the meaning of their existence within their minds and souls. One could call them sages, because their knowledge is amazing. A combination of the two kinds are Berserkers. They are quite wise until it comes to battle. In the sound of battle they turn into savage beasts that seek destruction. Most of them were vikings in their previous lives.

What annoyed the hell out of me was when Miss Daniela said 'I have urgent matters to attend to and I can not have thee with me. From now on you are on your own. As your maker I release you. Farewell diablo.' The words still echo in my mind when I can't sleep. It felt like she tore a bit of my soul away. All my suggestions were rejected. Nothing I promised was good enough to keep her with me. I even begged her to stay. The day she was ready to leave I was so desperate that I have tried to hold her against her will. It took me 2 days to recover. That was the last time I shed a tear.

Ten long years I was searching for her. There were so many questions I wanted to ask, so many answers I wanted. Miss Daniela was my brother, sister, parents and grandparents in one. Of course I had family in my previous life, but I don't know what happened to them. In their eyes I vanished eleven years ago.

One day, when I was hunting in the woods I realised that I am turning more and more into a savage beast. I had just one aim in my life and it was to feed. This had to stop, I need my humanity as well as I need the beast. What I really needed was civilisation. I grew up in a city and now I should run in the woods? Unacceptable. What I need is a link to civilisation, something to remind me of where I am from. A companion seemed to be the answer. But who? Most of the people I knew are dead already.

Chapter 2: The companion

It was a cold night when I came to the village. There, near the forest I should find what I was looking for. A wolf howled in the night and paid his respect to the moon. A cottage made of wood stood there alone like a monument of civilisation in a savage world. It was silent and covered by darkness of the night. Only one torch in front of the door was fighting the night with its light.

I barely entered the light of a torch when someone shouted: 'I may not be the youngest but I certainly can swing my axe through your skull!' I saw an old man, maybe sixty or seventy whom I called a friend when he was younger. He still had the fierce look in the light blue eyes. He managed to sneak on me, that is a good sign. I went a bit closer. The old man spit on the ground: 'What sorcery is this?!' and assumed a fighting position. Good, he is still the same, not even all those years could change his nature. I stood there happy as I haven't been for the last thirty years. Yes, it took me a while to find him. As I was just standing there thinking about all the stuff we went through together he caught me by surprise with an attack and his axe cut off my left arm as I used it to block. I backed off. The old man stared at my left elbow with his mouth open watching my arm to regenerate itself. 'Please do not try that again, it really does hurt.' I said. 'Die foul sorcerer!' the old man shouted and charged again. 'Stop!' I commanded. When a vampire commands humans are affected on a primary level of their mind. It strikes their fear, reminding them that they can die. No sane human can resist it. 'It is me, diablo. It really is me.' 'diablo died many years ago and even if he was still alive, he would be as old as I am now, so state your business or leave forever!' said the old man. He was not a coward, but he knew when to start being diplomatic to save himself. 'I would like to tell you my story old man and I have some good wine with me for you.' 'Fine' he said still a bit of disbelief.

I was standing by the front door desperately trying to find a way how he could invite me in. 'Mortis? I cannot enter your cottage if you don't invite me in.' I decided to say the truth. 'Splendid, then you shall be outside. You are a demon indeed. What would bring you to my house disguised as a long dead friend of mine?' I was tired a bit so I asked: 'Shall we speak inside?' 'No demon, nor any other creature is welcome here. I have built this place with my own hands and I will fight for it if I have to!' said a much more confident voice. So I sat down on the doormat, rolled the wine indoor and waited. Mortis went for a glass and a chair and sat down. I noticed that he has his axe with him. Its blade was as sharp as his tongue. 'Explain yourself demon!' So I started with my story and it went on and on. Many questions were asked and many answered. When the dawn was about to come I told Mortis that I will have to leave if he is not willing to invite me in and let me sleep inside. Of course he did not, stubborn old man! I came the next night but he wouldn't response to my knocking. I feared he died, but I still couldn't go trough the door nor use the window. That can mean only one thing – he is not dead, at least for now. I sat there for the whole night and then went off. No, I did not give up, I came back again. I liked Mortis a lot, but after a week my patience was almost done. I've told him things no other person could know and in the end he believed it is me. I explained what a vampire is, but he would still ask questions. If it goes like this I will have to kill him, I cannot afford to leave him with so much knowledge about vampires. If any elder vampire finds out I would be sentenced to watch the sun rise. 'Now shut up you old fool and either come with me or rot here!' 'Calm down, why the rush?' said Mortis. 'It is your time we are running out of, I have all the time in the world.' I said in a quite annoyed voice. 'I am ready.' said the old man with a hint of smile on his lips. 'What? I mean, pardon me?' 'Are you deaf my friend? I said I am ready. Please come in.'

Chapter 3: The end of the world

After the first and the second World War there was peace. But not for long. Three hundred years to be exact.

'Alert! Nuclear missile detected. Alert!' came out of all speakers in the American Defence Headquarters.

'Mr. President, we have a Code Red. Impact in T minus 4 hours.' said the general. 'What? Who is responsible for this madness?' shouted the president of the United States. 'We are unable to track it, the missile came from the orbit sir.' 'Evacuate major cities, I want every soldier to be ready in ten minutes. Emergency meeting in the Air Force One in five minutes.' said the sweating and scared elderly man in his bed. Luckily his wife and children were on holiday. He can fully focus on the situation.

'Gentlemen, the situation is grim,' proclaimed the head of homeland security, 'there is no way we can stop the missile. It will undoubtedly hit the ground of USA. Then he followed with the bad news: 'Seventy percent of the population will die immediately after the explosion, another twenty from the radioactivity. Our scientists said that the shockwave will run around the earth 4 times causing major destruction. There is no time for a proper evacuation. We already commenced with the evacuation of the most important people. We can save fifteen million Americans, no time to be picky now. I suggest operation GSA.' 'What is operation GSA?' a question that just had to be asked. 'God Save America' replied the president. The situation must have been more than bad if this was suggested. 'OK, launch operation GSA and prepare for counter attack.' 'Who is the target Mr. President?' 'Russia, China, Israel, South Africa and pick a few more. The choice is yours, I don't care. If we're going down we won't go down alone. Use all types of bombs we have, I want chemical weapons, viral weaponry and even magic missiles if he have some.' laughed the president on his own joke and he felt his mind being covered by a veil of madness. 'Yes sir!'

'Impact in three, two, one...'

Chapter 4: The day after

Wind was gently blowing through the desert where the city of New York used to be. A faint glow could be seen in the dark. It was the only source of light that could be found on the surface. A vast majority of earths population died in a few minutes, a lot during the few weeks after. Those foolish enough to leave their Vaults were dead as well. In a few vaults there were civilised people who could survive thanks to the autonomous life-preserving systems. But there were other vaults as well, vaults that were dwelled upon. 'How did you know?' I asked. 'Know what?' replied Mortis. 'About the war.' 'War...' he paused, 'war never changes.' 'Nice, but still, how?' I was getting a bit impatient. 'Have you ever noticed that a few important people in a few important places in a few governments look very similar and never come out at day?' he said smiling. 'You?' 'No, I did not start this. Whoever started this was a maniac or just a human. Probably both.' Mortis explained and carried on 'I was aware of it fifteen minutes after the missile was fired, but I knew nothing about it before. Damn, nobody did!' 'Any ideas who could have done that?' my hunger for knowledge is always present. 'Many and none. Many people would like to do it but nobody would dare. What worries me more is how it looks outside now.' 'I'd guess pretty dark with a green glow.' I said laughing. 'I'd guess pretty dead.' he replied in a sad voice. I came up with an idea: 'It has been quite a few years, we can check. What do you think?' 'It is too soon to go out my friend. Besides, the Ugly Stupid Asses fired all they had before the Nuke hit their ground. Most of them exploded on their way. But you're right, we can't stay here forever, we're running out of people.' 'I'll give it a try!' Mortis' answer was simple 'Fool.' After a few hours and a few humans I was fine again. All clothes had to be burned, but nevermind. Looks like we have no choice than to go to a vampiric sleep again. Preparations were done and after setting up our 'alarm clocks' we were ready. The alarm clocks were in reality little flasks filled with blood cooled by liquid oxygen. There was a properly calculated amount of the liquid oxygen. When it runs out the blood will melt and drop into our mouths thus waking us up. 'Good night.'

A few alarms later it was decided that we have to go outside. Fifty-fifty chance of surviving, depending on the fact that we don't know if it is day or night. Lady Luck was on our side, it was night. Darker than any night I've ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Wherever I looked was desert. A dead desert with no sign of life. The bad news were that our food supply was running low. The good news is that if we find them something to eat they can survive on the surface. Days were going by, years after years and we've established a few cities. Everything was fine, but boring. 'You know there will be others.' said Mortis looking at the sky with no stars. 'Probably. I'm bored, shall we search for survivors?' 'We have to...' he left the sentence unfinished.

The first vampire we met was friendly just until he stabbed me in the back. He tasted of pollution. No other word could describe the rotten taste of his blood. It tasted as if it was used for cleaning the floor of a factory. He must have been one of the first to go out. This is a vampire-eat-vampire world. We separated and each of us was trying to find something to live for, something to kill with or something to keep. I was looking for Daniela. Lost in the deserts, swamps and other crap I spent fifteen years and I couldn't find a trace of her so I gave up, convincing myself that she must be dead. What was worrying me much more was that I couldn't get hold of Mortis either. My satellite phone was either not working or I don't know what. I couldn't even sense his presence nearby. What I found in the wastelands was very surprising. So far I have seen empty vaults with a few bones, leftovers of pre-war technology, a few people who were more beasts than humans, but that was it. One can imagine my surprise when I walked into a city. A proper city with a tavern which people nowadays call a pub, first aid building and even an employment agency! People generally don't trust newcomers but a greeting with a flamethrower was a bit too much fireworks in my opinion. Of course not enough at the same time. 'Stop!' said an authoritative voice. A vampire! Another of my kind and civilised! It must be my lucky day. 'What do you want here, this is my town?' 'I am diablo, one of the few who survived and as I can see you are much younger so show some respect.' He was indeed younger than me. 'What is your name?' 'I am Sergeant Corrigon and I am in charge here. As an intruder you will be punished. Kill him!' Not a pleasant welcome from a younger vampire and a far too quick judgement. Looks like the vampiric hierarchy has vanished as well. I barely escaped, but I took a note of his name. There were others like him, some better, some worse. Some that I met were much older than me. Looks like the whole continent is ruled by vampires.

What I find to my liking more than fights were empty vaults as that is where I could search for some technology. And weapons. At first of course I had to use a bow and arrows, but i was ready to abandon them as soon as I get a chance. Those were hard times. Until I found something that I actually really liked. They call it Uzi for the lack of pre-war knowledge. It was a HK MP7 with 50-round magazines of .45 ACP bullets. And what was better, there were two of them. I polished them every night and those two guns were my only companions. They were my source and solution to all the problems.

Chapter 5: Reunion

'You're still the stubborn lonely wolf I knew back then.' said Mortis when we met again. 'What?' 'Those guns of yours are useless, I can do much more with my bow.' and he produced a bow no human could possibly use, ever. It was a merge between a siege crossbow and a sport bow but much bigger and it really looked deadly. It looked like it could pierce a full armoured tank and it probably would. Did he forge it himself? I was trying to think of a reason why would someone create a thing like that. 'By the time you reload that I'll have four bullets in your chest.' I replied with a smile and produced my guns in full glory. We sat there talking for about a week exchanging information about the world. The outcome was quite clear, we will have to form a clan. In order to survive we need more capable fighters, engineers, builders, hunters and of course food. Food was the main concern as what we used to call people was not anymore. There were cripples, lepro-cripples, nuke-cripples, disease-cripples – cripples and mutants of all possible and impossible kind. Deep in my mind arouse the thought of me mutating in a four-armed vampire and for a moment it made me smile. The people problem solved itself, humans are a plague that can't be stopped.

'We have to protect the people.' 'I know' said Mortis, 'we need them.'

So we went back to the wastelands to arm ourselves a bit better. And hell we did. After so many fights that we lost track we found our weapons of choice. I sticked to my guns, while Mortis was deciding between his bow and a sniper rifle. The choice was made and his gun was a good companion.

We were in our science lab doing a routine check when Mortis said that he received a phone call. I jumped off the chair and grabbed his shoulders. 'Who?' I said half shouting. 'Calm down. And sit down, this is very strange.' he said waiting for my reaction. There were only 2 satellite phones I know of and we were the only people that had one and knew how to use it. Mortis carried on: 'The signal was encrypted, but it keeps repeating itself. I have no idea what it is or who could be the source. I don't even know which satellite it is coming from.' I was thinking hard trying to remember the most technologicaly advanced vampire but even he did not possess such technology. We could use our phones, but we couldn't produce new ones. 'We will make another research lab dedicated to finding the source and purpose of the signal. I have a bad feeling about this.' said Mortis and I have to admit that I haven't seen him this worried for centuries. Orders were given and in a few weeks the research lab was there. Employment agency found suitable people for it and we left Mortis' phone there even thou it meant no long distance communication between the two of us.

'Do you know anyone who could help us with the clan?' I had an idea: 'I know an insane sergeant and a few others that can be talked reason to.' 'Good, I know a few myself.' Mortis added. 'But we have a Major problem.' 'Which is?' Mortis grew curious. 'Are we going to be The Clan, or just a clan without a name?' 'Ehm, any suggestions?' 'Loads!' I laughed. It was a long and funny discussion where we came up with several names for a clan but none of them was good enough. What was needed was something showing strength, coherence and support with an overall aura of power. 'I've got it!' I said after a few hours. 'Go on.' Mortis replied with a grin. 'The Brotherhood of Steel.' I proclaimed proudly. There was a minute of silence where our brains were analysing the information and our minds were playing with it. 'Yes, that is a good name and from now on we shall be known as The Brotherhood of Steel.' was Mortis' final verdict.

Chapter 6: Fools in the Garden of Eden

The first to come was Magentia, one of those vampires who already settled down before the end of the world, Kobruk, a fighter of respect and honor, Scrapps the so much needed surgeon and a very strange vampire who called himself Nndungu. Others came as well and together we started to re-build civilization. From scratch…

‘’No news from the lab.’’ said Mortis when we met. ‘’Ehm, what lab?’’ ‘’The new science lab’’ he replied in a slightly annoyed voice. ‘’Oh, I see.’’ I finally realized. ‘’That will get sorted once a recruit of mine arrives. If he arrives that is.’’ ‘’Who or what is he?’’ Mortis asked and I could sense his curiosity. ‘’He is a who, not a what.’’ I said with a smile. ‘’I met him very far in the wastelands, at my turning point because I didn’t want to go any further. He is almost a sage. Started as a university teacher, made it to the dean and got turned the day he was 80.’’ ‘’How did he survive?’’ ‘’After a little period when he thought he is a beast and therefore needs to be fighting all the time he went back to studies. Lucky for him, and maybe even lucky for us. He got three university degrees every ten years since then.’’ I finished with the little story. ‘’Good, that could come in handy.’’ said Mortis with a hint of a smile. I learned how to read the signs of emotions he provided. To others he must look like a statue. A good feature to have for a clan leader.

It took Jimferatu a few weeks, but he finally arrived. At first I thought it is a train he used for transport, but the closer he came the more it looked like a convoy of trucks. ‘’My apologies for being late, gentlemen. Now, if you excuse me for a few days I will unpack and then we can talk.’’ He didn’t bother to wait for our response and started unpacking. I couldn’t help but watch all the strange things he had. I had no idea what most of the technology is good for. He even had animals with him. Not exactly animals as we had back then, but for the lack of words we call those abominations animals.

In the mean time Scrapps organized a little surgery and named it ‘’Piervsza pomoc’’ which is Polish for first aid. He has a twisted sense of humor. Feeling proud of his new creation he persuaded the employment agency to change its name to Posredniak. Luckily we managed to stop him from naming all the buildings in the city but from time to time he still plays little pranks on us. That way we have something to laugh about.

Everything was going right and if it carries on like this we will be able to focus all our research on re-building the world we lost. Of course it will take centuries, or even more, but we have all the time in the world.

Chapter 7: The arrival

While we were discussing a new kind of nano robots for terra re-creation at one of our meetings my satellite phone rang.

‘‘Code Red!’’ I shouted without any hesitation. ‘’Activate shields and weapons! All power to defences!’’ ‘’Security! Report! Immediately.’’ Mortis added his bit. I tossed the phone on the table and said to Jim: ‘’Locate the call, tell me who it is and bring him here!’’ He just pressed a button behind his ear and said: ‘’Activate Project Kitten, security override level 7, authorization by voice.’’

The rest of the people in the room were silent and confused. For a brief moment there was no sound at all.

‘’I’m on it!’’ said Eve.

‘’Sergeant Corrigon, security report. No suspicious behavior on the monitored areas. No visual, infrared or any other contact. All weapons ready. Triple checking everything as we speak. What is going on?’’ broke the silence.

It was ten seconds since my phone rang for the first time. The display was still showing the same:

Incoming call… Caller ID: Unknown CallerLocation: n/a

Fifteen seconds from the first ring Jimferatu said: ‘’Ready.’’ I pressed the green button and answered the call with a loudspeaker already activated. Something was not right. In fact, something was very wrong. All people who had the ability to call my satellite phone were in the same room as me and the number itself was one of the best guarded secrets in the whole brotherhood.

A male computer voice from my phone said a simple ‘’Incoming file’’ and then every single electronic device but the phone went dead for a minute.

‘’What is Project Kitten?’’ I asked while switching my sight from Mortis to Jimferatu and back. Jim answered first. ‘’Project Kitten is a tracking device based on bio organism that used to be a real kitten. It can track almost any signal and locate its source.’’ ‘’Nice, does it purr?’’

‘’Missile detected. Impact in 4, 3, 1... now’’ proclaimed our emotionless defensive system. Who could possibly have planned this? The earth shook once and when it was over I looked at Eve. Some systems were already online, others just booting up and coming alive with an OK message on her display. ‘’Where?’’ asked Mortis. ‘’Right in the centre. No explosion. Radiation normal. Zero movement. Our troops have a visual.’’ Eve answered and I was glad she never panicked. I was frightened. Someone was able to override all our defensive barricades and fire a missile right into the centre of the town. We could have been dead the second it arrived…

It appeared to me that the world has stopped. We were all waiting for something to happen and completely forgot about everything else.

‘’Corrigon here. Area of impact secured. Still no sign of enemy outside of the city.’’ His voice being slightly changed by the armour he was wearing to be protected from radiation, acid, disease, cold and fire. Mortis took command: ‘’All units on stand-by, this can be a trap.’’

‘’File transfer completed.’’ Sounded from my satellite phone and then it died even thou the battery was full.

I nearly shot the phone in shock and I was not the only one. Both Eve and Mortis had their guns out as well, even thou there was no real use of them here.

‘’What did Kitten find out?’’ ‘’Only 3 coordinates, so I can locate it in 2D if I’m lucky. The signal was too short’’ Said Jim and he was obviously angry now. He paused for a moment and asked someone on the other side of the line to verify again. ‘’Ehm, the coordinates show to the centre of the city, but since it is just 2D the source could be below or above.’’ ‘’Above’’ said Eve firmly.

We all understood what just happened and Jim ordered to missile to be taken onto one of his labs. It took us several days since we managed to open the container. Covered in bubblewrap there was a minidisc. We set up a soundproof room with a computer that has no connection at all with any other device but a beamer and then we inserted the disc in. To our surprise bOS found one file called chng_log.txt and it said:


1: *****Change log for Underworld

2: *****File generated by K.O.N.R.A.D.


4: change_1: Magic implemented.

5: *****EoF

‘’What the hell is that supposed to mean?’’ said Mortis while we all stared at the image. ‘’Underworld is the same place where the UK used to be before the end of the world’’ said Eve as if we were all supposed to know that. ‘’And who would that K.O.N.R.A.D. guy be?’’ I asked. Nndungu enlightened us: ‘’K.O.N.R.A.D. was a pre-war attempt at creating an artificial intelligence for the purpose of automated defence of South Africa in order to provide safety for their trade of natural resources, mainly diamonds. It was based on the orbit and kept in secrecy from the rest of the world. Looks like someone re-programmed it.’’ ‘’How do you know all that?’’ Mortis asked while carefully noticing every single reaction of his suspect. The tension in the room grew stronger. For safety reasons we were all unarmed, but so outnumbered he wouldn’t stand a chance.

Chapter 8: There is no such thing as truth

‘’I designed the hardware.’’ Nndungu said with a frown and sat down to continue. ‘’It started after the WW2. I was a new HW specialist in South Africa and I was doomed with that project. My contact with family and friend as well as all the people I knew back then were cut for security reasons.

We were locked in a underground facility where we worked in turns to accomplish the ideal set of hardware. We failed. We failed miserably as no superconductors or any CPUs could deal with the rapidly increasing demand of processor power that the project had demanded. At the end the best scientists were turned into vampires against their own will so that they could work on the project day and night without being tired. As I said, I was the chief designer of the hardware parts, so I was among the first to be changed.

We found that no present technology could ever be capable of AI, so we experimented on multiple levels. The most successful were combinations of living tissue combined with an array of computers on a very basic level. What we created was a fusion of human and vampire brains and a machine. This still proved to be insufficient. I won’t bother you with details, but those of you who know a bit about occult would probably know what we were missing. After we completed the fusion of souls we thought we’re done. And we were almost right.

K.O.N.R.A.D. went insane, killed most of the crew and almost got us all killed. With the last remaining survivors and some help from the outside we managed to lock the devil inside of the facility. Every attempt of destroying it failed. K.O.N.R.A.D. became too powerful. We kept him there for years and made him use all the power he had. We thought we won.

Finally we managed to bomb the place and forgot about it. Seems like he awakened from the dead which to be honest I wouldn’t be very surprised of. There is no way of killing it, defeating it or getting rid of it yet.’’

Chapter 9: Magic

‘’So to sum it up we’re against an entity that just created magic out of whim, right?’’ I asked while laughing. ‘’Stop the non-sense!’’ Mortis broke my flawless joke, ‘’this is more serious than any of us can imagine. We have no idea what this magic is capable of, how it will affect us or how we can defend ourselves against it.’’ ‘’I have my guns and I bet they can kill as easily as before, let us try.’’

The Wastelands, our source of pre-war technology became a death trap. There are creatures we couldn’t even dream about ever before. And those creatures have but one mission, to kill us all.

Chapter 10: This life ain’t worth living

The impact on the surrounding was rather radical. There were zones in the wastelands that had nothing in common with reality as we knew it. What we thought of as normal existed no more. The few remaining animals turned into bloodthirsty beasts and even the vegetation became aggressive. From that day, we struggled for survival. Our city was attacked by strange creatures from all sides, every single night. Human population has reached critical level. We were doomed because some damn experiment went nuts. Who would have thought that the real end of the world will be like this?

In the everyday struggle for blood and people, I gave up my hope of a new Earth. What a silly dream it was in the first place. I have never smiled since. My whole existence was slowly dragged to one single purpose – to kill. One day, at midnight, we gathered as a clan to discuss defence. They were talking for hours while I was just looking at my guns. Were they really the solution to my problems? Can they really change the world?

‘’What do you think, diablo?’’ said Mortis for at least the fifth time till I noticed. I put my guns back in their place and answered in a silent whisper: ‘’What is all this good for? We arm ourselves, go out, fight and return without victory but lucky that we scared the beasts off. Then we recover and do it all over again. What is the point of all this?’’ Everyone looked down. Nobody said a word for a long time. I was sick of it, sick of being some jester for a freaked-out AI somewhere on the orbit. I won’t be a puppet, even if it means my own death. ‘’We fight because we are not happy with the world as it is. We fight to change it. We fight to win!’’ shouted Mortis. ‘’We protect our people, help each other and kill whatever comes in our way.’’ ‘’Those creatures are almost godlike, how do you want to kill them?’’ my patience was growing thin.

‘’With magic.’’ Nndungu entered the conversation. ‘’Those creatures didn’t exist before, which means that they are a product of the magic.’’ ‘’What do you mean?’’ I asked. ‘’Fight fire with fire’’ said Mortis with a smile. ‘’I’ll think about it.’’ I replied and left.

Chapter 11: On the road again

Time has passed and I was wandering through the wastelands without purpose and with rapidly decreasing ammunition. I kept one bullet for me.

Magic should be the means to kill the monsters, but how? It seems that the magic only affected the world around me while I was left untouched. That of course made me seriously weak in comparison with everything else. The monsters were quicker than my bullets, dodging them and even if I hit the damage seemed insignificant.

No matter how hard I tried I, couldn’t find a weakness in any of the monsters. I sneaked up on them, observed, gathered information and still failed to kill any of them. There seemed to be some kind of order among them, some sort of hierarchy. The monsters occupied certain areas in hordes. Depending on the kind of monsters they chose an area that suited them the most. What was troubling me more was the hierarchy. In every horde as I got used to call them, there was a leader. The strongest monster of all. This is a law of nature, the strongest leads the pack. That’s when it struck me. Of course! I ran back to BoS headquarters with the good news.

I had to stop on my way home and spend the day in one of the vaults. This one had been occupied by some kind of freaks in the past. There were ornaments all over the place. Driven by curiosity I came to what I’d call a sacrificial chamber. There were bones scattered everywhere and the floor was marked with blood. What puzzled me was that the main sacrificial place was connected to another room with thick cables. What maniac would analyze a sacrifice with a computer?

I decided to check the whole vault before scrutinizing the sacrificial chamber a little more. I went from door to door but no living creature could be found. I’m still not sure if it was good or bad. As much as I didn’t really want to live, I didn’t want to be sacrificed to some non-existing god or a demon either. The deeper I went into the vault the stronger was the scent of death. Violent death.

As usual, the surprise was on the lowest floor. I have no idea why people bother to dig themselves so deep into the ground, as if nobody wanted to be close to the surface now that the cursed magic was there. I was right. This person didn’t try to hide, he was being hidden from the rest of the world. Imprisoned behind bars so thick that I have no idea how they were produced, there was a humanoid creature. A black and red cape was hiding his or her face as well as the rest of the strange figure.

I produced my guns in silence, checked the rest of the room for traps and just stood there thinking that I’m acting stupid. Judging from the dust on the upper floors as well as this one, it looks like nobody has been here for centuries. Then the creature spoke and it sounded as if his lips were sewed together: ‘’How long are you going to stand there?’’ Both of my guns were aimed at where the head was meant to be and I wouldn’t miss someone fifteen feet away from me.

‘’Who are you?’’ I demanded an answer. ‘’The right question would be what are you, but nevermind. Are you going to let me go or did you come for a chat?’’ the creature replied. It is clear that I’m not winning, if he was here for centuries a few more wouldn’t be a problem. ‘’Actually, I did. I just came to ask how you’re doing. And I’ll be doing it every year to remind you of the passing time. Of course not on the same day.’’ I lied. ‘’Grab a chair; it will take some time to explain everything.’’

Chapter 12: Deep below the surface

‘’I was the head of this institution for a long time. Then we found what we were looking for and since then I have been imprisoned. Looks like you didn’t need the chair after all.’’ said the person laughing. ‘’Was that it? OK then, what do you intend to do now?’’ I asked still surprised by the jovial tone in his voice. ‘’Right, looks like you want the whole story. Please, have a seat.’’ he said but didn’t sit down. I was a bit tired so I did. Then he started to talk.

‘’My name is Matt Van Occupanther. Irish grandparents… As I said before, I was the head of this facility. The purpose of it was to research rituals and occult with focus on human and vampire alteration with the help of the latest technology. Impressed?’’ ‘’Indeed, please carry on, I bet there is more to it.’’ I answered. ‘’Right. I was not really involved in the research itself, I was here to take care of the organizational part of it. We were doing well and to cut the long story short – the head of the research team used me to test one of his experiments.’’ ‘’What kind of experiment was it, if I may ask?’’ ‘’Computer driven rituals of sacrifice to bring myths into the real world. The rituals needed to be very precise in time apparently. I was there just to press one button to start the whole procedure. I had no idea that from the occult point of view it would make me the one who performed the ritual. Nobody knew that I’d be the target as well. Are you familiar with any myths?’’ ‘’A few, do you have any particular in mind?’’ ‘’The Myth of Cthulhu’’ he said and stepped a bit forward and revealed his face.

I was so shocked that the only thing I managed to do was to sit there and stare at the creature. His skin was a bit darker and rubbery, hair was missing and instead of a mustache here were tentacles.

‘’I was a vampire before it happened’’ said Anthony and carried on ‘’if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have survived the ritual. A human would be turned to ashes.’’ ‘’As you can probably imagine, I wasn’t impressed by the outcome and killed most of the scientists in rage. The rest of the fools couldn’t fix me, so I used them as food. I can feed on fear. Being a myth has its advantages.’’ ‘’When they locked me in, they feared me so much that I didn’t have to eat since then. It was a long time ago and I’m getting bored.

‘’Right Cthulhu, I think it is time we leave.’’ I said. ‘’You made a mistake there, my friend. We are not leaving. You may be. For obvious reasons I cannot.’’ he said pointing at the bars.

‘’How do we open it?’’ I asked. ‘’We can’t. There are nine keys to this door and all have to be turned at the same time.’’ ‘’Damn!’’

We spent a few days searching for the keys. Luckily we found them all. The problem was how to turn nine keys at the same time. I wasn’t fast enough to do that, no matter how hard I tried and BoS was too far away. Cthulhu said ‘’Shoot them, you shoot faster than you run.’’ So we tried. I could shoot three in almost no time but not all of them. Seeing this was the way to go he started to teach me about various rituals.

Most of them were surprisingly about soul binding an object. Guns are nothing but mere objects, they cannot be altered. What Cthulhu wanted to change was me. It took a while but finally, we were ready. All systems were powered up and I had enough blood to start with. We went through the whole process six times again just to be sure that I’ll do it right. Then it was time to start.

A few minutes before midnight, the little screen on my wrist watch said ‘’READY’’. All other screens in the room were showing runes and other symbols. I sat down and meditated. Phase one ended when music started to play. It wasn’t really music, but a murmur of about nine different voices saying the same spell in nine different languages. I knew that nine were the seals of hell and each and every one had to be opened at the same time and only for one nanosecond, otherwise I would risk losing my sanity first, soul and body to follow shortly after.

Second phase started and I filled nine small glasses with my own blood. It was very important that all the glasses contain the exact amount of blood that is needed for each seal. I practiced the process many times, because if the right amount is not reached then the seals won't open.

During the third phase, I put two bullets into each glass of blood, one for every gun. The meaning of this was to link myself to the bullets through my guns. When all the bullets were covered in blood, I took them out one by one and loaded the ammo clips.

Phase four was simple, I only had to say a few words: ‘’Kaegi nadi korr!’’ Then I took my guns and I was ready for phase five, the last one.

For a very short moment I understood the guns, their desire to kill, their motherly love for every bullet, the pain when they miss. I could feel them as living creatures and I knew I’ll understand what they’ll be saying from now on. I feared that if I lose them, it would be worse than losing all of my friends at the same time.

I became one with my guns.

When I returned back to Cthulhu, he seemed glad to see me. Without a word I took the nine keys and put them in place. Then I shot nine bullets without even thinking about it. A few moments later, a familiar click echoed in the room. The prison was unlocked.

‘’Well done my friend, now let us see if you survive the last four phases of the ritual you started.’’ said Cthulhu. ‘’You’re half way there pal.’’ I wasn’t told about any more phases, but apparently it was important, otherwise I would have failed the first five.

Phase six was quite painful considering it only changed my eyes. What used to be light blue became orbs of ebony black. On the other hand my peripheral vision was extended so much that it is no longer peripheral. I can see in any direction as clearly as if I was looking forward.

Phase seven nearly killed me. Pain lanced through my body as if I had been shot in every part of it. Cthulhu later said that only those who are prepared to die by a gun should be able to fire one. I don't know if he was right but the pain was tremendously agonizing.

Phase eight was a strange dream. I was going through a desert when a Sphinx appeared out of nowhere. The beast grabbed me by the neck and asked me to prove that I’m worthy. I said that I’ll shoot the moon. The Sphinx looked puzzled but agreed. I fired two shots and both hit their target. The sphinx took a hit in each eye and fell on the sand. ‘’Can you see the moon now?’’ No answer. ‘’Thought so.’’ My dream – my rules. The ability to control my own dreams was a part of the training I went through. After that I woke up smiling, ready for the last phase.

At the beginning of phase nine my guns came alive. They cried. Their tears were made of melted bullets. They started swirling through the room and tore the computers apart. When they were done, they came asking for blood. ‘’Take as much as you need, but not a single drop more.’’ I agreed. I was shot by hundreds of tiny little guns in my arms, my back and even my eyes got a few hits. It happened so fast that I couldn’t gauge what the damage was. I faded and fell to the floor.

When I woke up I saw Cthulhu’s face leaning over me mumbling something through his tentacles. ‘’I’m glad you made it my friend, now you are a true gunman.’’

The outcome of the last phase was tattoos. Two of them were on my arms and one big tattoo on my back. The last one was on the inside of my eyes. All together they were a complete set. What I gained was the ability to shoot faster than I ever thought was possible. On the inner side of my eyes is a counter that shows me the precise amount of ammunition still loaded in my guns. In addition to that, it gave me sufficient knowledge on how to make the deadliest and most efficient bullets.

The strange thing about the tattoos is that they look like a merge of technology and occult, exactly what I would expect from such a ritual, and they can’t be broken or damaged.

It was time to go home. Cthulhu insisted on destroying the whole vault and I had no arguments to stop him from doing so. He even insisted on a runic implosion to be sure that there will be nothing left. The thing with runic implosion is that it ignores the usual laws of physics. What remained from the whole vault was a small stone. Cthulhu painted on it a rune of forgetfulness with his own blood while it was hot. Then he hung it on a chain on his neck.

‘’This place owes me a lot and I don’t intend to waste all that energy. If I forget who I am, it will take me back to the vault for a moment before I die.’’

Chapter 13: Home sweet home

When we reached BoS headquarters, we bumped into Mortis and Jimferatu on the street. ‘’Welcome back, I was getting worried a bit. Where have you been?’’ the leader asked. ‘’Hi Mortis, I did some research, can we have a conference in fifteen minutes? By the way, this is Cthulhu, the actual myth himself. Since he has nowhere else to go and helped me a lot I offered him shelter.’’ I explained and we all looked at Cthulhu. ‘’Nice to meet you Mortis, hi Jim.