So there I was, strapped down to a bed. The pale beauty straddled my waist, her rich ginger hair hanging down between us like a curtain surrounding her ever-so-cute freckled face.
Ah, Felicia. Cute, funny, and way too smart for my own good. To be straddled by her would be too good to be true.
And, sadly, it was. Sorry. But if someone with money actually every reads this stuff and decides it needs a movie, I just really wanted to have Felicia Day in there. Hell, I didn’t even dream that. I didn’t dream anything. Just fade to black. Then I woke up to the pissed visage of Fortune Cookie standing by my bedside, holding a glass of water that she just almost poured on me.
“Ha! Too late, I already woke up,” I said. She tipped the glass over anyway.
That’s what I had to wake up to before we went on our little trip. Not Felicia Day getting my lips all wet; a glass of water. All that because I made Cookie upset over insisting I adjust my armor for the trip. She thought I meant hiking originally, before I pointed out that the story given to us involved trucks taking parts up there. Or maybe she just didn’t like the idea of me sleeping until noon.
I pulled it on and showed her I’d fixed up a harness that could hold her and her pack, as well as some items for me on the front. All she needed to do was double stuff her own pack, put on a lot of clothes, and strap herself against my body. She didn’t seem to hate it, though I couldn’t read that expression. She speaks English with some sort of Asian accent when she’s around me, but sometimes people’s body language differs from region to region as well.
While I’d never bothered inquiring, I’m fairly certain by now that testing her body for chemistry wouldn’t pan out.
We all loaded up into a rented truck to take us up the rough side road to that village they mentioned. I can’t remember the name offhand. Bumfuck, I think? We had to stick Moai in the truck bed. I figured it’d be tougher to get a pickup truck out here, but I should have remembered. The landscape turned to forest as we puttered up the hill, Moai and his mullet wig riding free in the wind. The journey was uneventful, though Cookie made me turn off the radio after they started playing “Boom, boom, boom, boom!” by the Vengaboys.
Damn Hephaestus. Those song rights could have been mine.
But no wolves. No trouble at the village. Hell, the people pretty much vanished as soon as we got close. Perhaps they expected us to be a group of psycho killers. I guess they dodged a bullet on that one.
The road narrowed after that. I wanted to gun it, but Cookie overruled me and took over driving. Probably a good idea with the snow we ran into, but at least we could follow the road still. That ended when the road did, abruptly, at various trucks. Moving trucks, that is. They weren’t semis, but they had nondescript white trailers. Only as we slowed did on pulling up did I notice our truck seemed a bit louder. A glance revealed it to be overheating and racking up the RPMs. Cookie noticed it as well and stopped us a good ways from the blockage ahead.
“Moai, take a look under the hood. See if they rented us a piece of shit. Cookie, be careful.” Despite what I said, she followed me up to the others vehicles.
“Hoods up. They had mechanical problems too,” Cookie said. “There are sled marks ahead. I see they haven’t made it to the tower yet. There’s still time.”
“One problem, o Fortuna. I think they would have left a guard.” I looked around, flipping through vision modes smooth as a goddamn Predator. Nothing came up until I got to my recently installed Vibrant Mode. Better light absorption that makes colors stand out more. I spotted the skin. At first, it surprised me that I couldn’t see blood. When I got closer to the body, I realized why. “Werewolves. The local variety drinks blood.” The throat and belly were torn open, but the only blood clung to the leaves of bushes or the bark of nearby trees as sprayed droplets.
Cookie glanced over, then turned her head away before she could see too much. Then her head shot up. She searched the sky.
“Something up?” I looked up as well. Not an easy thing with the sun glaring straight up in the sky.
“What time do you have?” she asked, then checked her own watch.
I pulled up the time on the HUD. “12:24. Which isn’t right, because there’s no way that drive took less than a half hour.” We’d been going for hours at least.
“Time isn’t right here,” she said.
“I thought you said they hadn’t reached wherever they were going? If this tower isn’t complete, you wouldn’t think they’d be messing up time.” I pondered that. “Or maybe it’s like a crater. Space and time are all connected, and if you smack something into the ground hard enough, it makes a disturbance in all directions. That sound like plausible enough bullshit to you?”
Cookie shrugged. “It could be. I hoped you knew more than guesses.”
“I’m trying to figure this out as I go along. I already knew that time could be affected by gravity. Figuring out time is stranger to me. It’s not how I’m used to thinking. Then there’s the really confusing stuff, like you not being able to see what you do but somehow knowing you’d get me here if you told me to go to Vladivostok.” I checked around for any more bodies, then stooped closer to the dead guy to check him. His watch hadn’t been broken, so no luck seeing when he died. The time affected him as well, I believe. Otherwise, Cookie wouldn’t have needed me to find a dead person. Dead things give off a very distinct smell if they’ve spent any time rotting.
“I’ll tell you on the way. We need to catch them.”
I stood up then and adjusted the harness I’d fixed onto my armor for our trip. “That’s impressive.” I walked over to her and knelt away. “I figured you to be a bit less risk averse with your abilities. Hop on.”
Thus we soared over the majestic Romanian landscape, happy as a pair of lovebugs. Or I was. I didn’t care what Cookie thought as I jumped along, though at least she told me how she used her powers to get me here. It’s kind of simple, actually. She never sent me the message. She sent a text addressing me to that Elementalist guy who because she knew I’d attack him and she hoped I would see the message.
As for Moai, I advised him that he could wait around or maybe check out the village, but it’d be slow going for him up a snowy mountainside.
I’d been dialing down the power on the jump enhancers enough to keep from dying, and I figured I was safe enough since I aimed up a slope, but I didn’t adjust for all the extra weight on me. First big jump out of the gate and I had some shattering down there despite the snow to land on. Possibly some skin penetration from the inside. I didn’t look. Just had to wait as everything healed.
At least Cookie didn’t bitch at me then and there. She’s gotten more and more hostile to me over the past few days, a phenomena typical of most people I spend a lot of time with. However, she wasn’t that unreasonable. She even patted me on the shoulder and said she appreciated me doing something bound to shed days from the trip. I blame pheromones, since sapiens and machina are different species. It means there is something wrong with human noses that forces them to find me unattractive. Otherwise, I’d have to beat potential mates off.
I’m being informed by Optimal Outer Control that I forgot to end that sentence with “me with a stick.”
On my side of things, I think my problem with being attracted to humans is that they’re so stupid. That, and probably because of something I heard where a person thought I might straighten out better if I just met the right person whose love could set me straight. As if sticking your dick in someone automatically makes you a better person. I get some of the thought behind the idea. If I was getting laid all the time, I’d probably be happy that I got laid. Still wouldn’t be doing much to help me up into the Carpathian mountains, would it?
After a bit of healing time, I dialed back the jumping some more. It’d be a hassle, but I’d hippity and hoppity my way up quicker than zoosexual bunny in a brothel. And I aimed too, until we passed through some weird curtain of twilight in midair. One moment, it was afternoon. Then we fell through a shadow and looked up to find the sun setting.
“That was sudden,” Cookie commented. “Are you fine to keep going? If we push through, we may reach day again soon.”
“I’m good if you are. Hope you’re bundled up back there. I get the feeling we’re about to run into the local wildlife. What a horrible night to have a curse.” Before she could ask what I meant about a curse, howls filled the forest around us. I spotted glowing red eyes moving through the trees.
Cookie noticed them too. “Can we outrun them?”
“Maybe. I’d rather fight them. That way, they’ll know not to chase us.” I checked the trees nearby for a good spot.
“I’m armed, but I don’t think I can fight them.” She pulled out a small handgun that my HUD identified as a CZ 83 as she aimed it past my head into the darkness.
“Is that really all?” I reached to a side pouch on my harness, trying to take out something I’d brought along special for this situation.
She held out a wooden stake in her other hand. Not a bad idea.
I cocked my head to the side. “That’s more like it. Ok, I need you to loosen the harness up a bit while I dump you someplace safe.”
“Wha- ah!” I caught her by surprise when I jumped this time, landing in the branches of a tree. They cracked under my weight, but held at least long enough for me to tell her to get free and stay in the tree. I tried to stay close to their bases. Acting fast thanks to adrenaline, Cookie pulled herself free into branched just over my head that supported her weight more easily.
I looked down and had an idea. I hopped back and tried to catch as much of the branches as possible while gravity decided to reintroduce me to its friend the ground. Hello ground, I’m falling. Hi falling, I’m the ground. I landed on my feet with all the skill of a cat. And, also like a cat, a giant canine jumped on me and attempted to eat me. I shoved it off using the limbs in my hand and then tossed them down.
I had a different weapon in mind for playing with these doggies than a simple stick. In my helmet, Konami Kukaiha Club’s remix of Bloody Tears began.
The next one tried to jump me from behind. Cookie yelled for me to look out, but I already whirled on it, whip unfurling in my hand. It didn’t crack. It was too busy splitting open the face of a giant black wolf and confounding it enough to land in front of me rather than on me. It lunged at that range, but I brought my other arm up. It bit into metal. The metal didn’t give, but it didn’t want to let go. “Oh no, here I am, a helpless bipedal being versus a four-legged thing clamping down on me with its mouth. Whatever shall I do?” I asked no one. Then I lifted it into the air and kicked it in the balls. It let go. I wrapped the whip around its throat and pushed hard on its body with my leg. Something snapped and it went limp.
Before I could free the whip, a pair of tried padded silently toward me from behind. More giant wolves, consistent with the lore. I rolled to the side like a cop firing on a crowd of protesting black college students and grabbed the pair of downed branches I’d dropped earlier. The first wolf got a hard shaft of wood deep down its throat and went limp. The wolf, not my wood.
My wood never goes limp unless I want it to. Good thing, too. If I walked around with it hard all the time, there’d be a major population problem on the planet. Genghis Khan ain’t got nothin’ on me. More like Genghis Gone.
The second one tried to bite my face off and it might have succeeded but for the fact that I wore a helmet. So if there ever is a movie version of all this, that’s the part where the big name star dies because those assholes never wear their fucking helmets. They also probably wouldn’t shove that stick up the wolf’s ass and turn it into a Popsicle like I did. I turned with my new weapon to try and find more wolves to beat with their limp friend.
I found them building a pyramid under the tree where I left Cookie. It didn’t surprise me so much to find them standing on each others’ backs as much as it did that I missed them until now.
I checked to see if Cookie was doing anything stupid, like panicking and falling out of the tree. She held a liquor bottle in her hand. Well, shit. I’ve been doing all the heavy lifting and she’s been partying? Oh, never mind. She lit a rag on fire at the top and hurled it down on the gathered wolves as a Molotov.
That sent them scattering, except for the one coming to tangled in my whip. I dipped my wolf on a stick into the flames until it caught, then proceeded to light the recovering werewolf on fire with my patented “smash them upside the head” technique. What it lacked in brevity it made up for in fun.
From there, we packed up and headed further up with the knowledge that at least compasses weren’t screwing up as much as the clocks were. The howls of wolves accompanied us, but they didn’t try us again. They disappeared when we passed through a curtain of light and we found ourselves at morning time.
“The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night,” I told Cookie.
She nodded and took a sip from a backup Molotov cocktail. “We should get some rest. Time is flying. Having fun?”
I waved my dead giant wolf stick and my whip. “Bring me the heads of Bella Lugosi and Lon Chaney, for I am the vampire slayer!”
Cue the Buffy theme song.