Effigy for the Blameless

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In which Tessa and Rheinhardt Decide...

I had been prepared,
On the day in which I died,
For many vague true happenings,
With which I would abide.
In souls yet gaping,
Winter breaths bring chills,
When good men turn blind,
We’ll drown amongst the swill.


“Quit yer’ caterwaulin’ would ya? You act as though you’ve never been shot before!”

“Shot, yes. Shredded? It’s been a while!”

“Quit bein’ such a baby and gut up!”

Tessa Bloomingale had been working with Rheinhardt Brickens for a very long time. Together the two had fought through havoc and mire, carnage and miasma…

Genocide and revelation.

With seven years between them, Tessa and Rheinhardt had developed a certain volatile affection for one another. They were no longer a woman and a man, a man and a woman. They were no longer comrades in arms. They were no longer family.

They simply were.

And so, it was with great joy, the giddiness of war that bordered upon madness and threatened to hurl itself into abyssal misery and desolation, that Tessa teased Rheinhardt mercilessly for having “allowed himself” to get shot.

Rheinhardt, six foot four with a less than standard issue head full of spiked brown and jade hair held onto his bulging, and bleeding, thigh with both hands. His smokey grey eyes were aghast with agony, though he limited his expression of discomfort to grunts and groans.

Muscular, toned with skin somewhere between olive and brown, Rheinhardt had stepped out from behind cover a bit too quickly prior to confirming his kill. This action was rewarded with a flurry of rounds volatile enough to penetrate his shielding and pierce his armor. While his leg was far from useless meat, his wound would need to be seen to before he would be running any marathons anytime soon.

“Hey, buck up buttercup. I’m gonna go get you some revenge.” Tessa grinned, loosing a very sinister looking curved and jagged knife, which bordered on a full on dagger, from her side.

“Look you damned fool, you need to—” Rheinhardt began his chastisement at her recklessness, but Tessa was all teeth and manic anticipation.

“Back in a jiff.”

Tessa turned on her heel and began to dash off, but stopped herself and returned swiftly. She looked Rheinhardt up and down, and then kissed the corner of his mouth.

“For luck.” She winked before crouching low and disappearing around the bend.

Rheinhardt leaned back and sighed, staring up at the vermilion and strawberry sky that meant night was approaching. The two mercenaries found themselves on a woefully unappreciated planet called Saberhagen some two hundred miles out from an equally unappreciated colony known as McCaffrey. There, surrounded by dusky saffron canyon walls, the color of the petals and not the crushed seed, Rheinhardt and Tessa were a part of a number of small units making up a company of mercenary soldiers. The two of them had signed on to help with the conflict taking place on McCaffrey, one that the HUF had labeled “Op Infidelity”.

The pay was good, and Tessa had wanted to see the Garden Succor at the nearby colony Spillane, so overall the contract was a win-win.

Now where’s that girl got to? Rheinhardt grumbled internally as he pulled his hands away just so. While a veritable genius in nanotechnology and horticulture, when it came to the medicinal arts the large mercenary was all but worthless.

Elsewhere, a large Atavashian whose body was slick with thick, mucilaginous purple blood cautiously leaned one of its antennae around its cover. This could be quite dangerous for an Atavashian, as their eyes could be made to flow from their face region up and out of the tip of said antennae to get a better look at their surroundings. Lucky for this particular Atavashian, there was no one waiting across the way to shoot him.

Vshhhnk!!!

Less lucky, there was someone who had crept very slowly, and very cautious through one of many Atavashian made tunnels to get behind him. Filled with almost as much rage as it was pain, the Atavashian made ready to impale Tessa with several of its many bladed tentacles that protruded from its sides and back, however,

“Oooo, wouldn’t do that if I were you. Feel that? Poking into you? I’m very familiar with your physiology. For example, I’m well aware that the tip of this knife is pressing right up against your…oh…what’s the word? Well, we’d call it a gallbladder. Well, except ours is full of bile, which, obviously is bad for the rest of us. Yours? So cray. Yours is full of gas. Noxious gas. Gas that, if released, will poison your system and cause you to begin to decay. A sack of meat that’s supposed to rupture not long after you die, decomposing your entire body over a period of seven to eight years. Much faster than ours, even with all of our micro-organisms in our intestines.

“Anyways, if I press much harder, it’ll prick a hole in you. And then, wow. That would just be the worst, wouldn’t it? Of course, there’s also this.”

The Atavashian frozen before Tessa Bloomingale grunted, its eye tendrils darting out and down to glimpse the second knife. He groaned as he winced, grimacing as Tessa worked the tip into the side of his segmented kneecap. Tessa ground the tip of the blade this way and that as she leaned in close, a proximity more for intimidation than anything. The Atavashians had excellent hearing, of course.

“You Atavash…you get off on sport, don’t you? I’ve seen how you kill. It’s wicked. Kinda interesting though. You like to wound your prey, and then you hunt them and take painful potshots for hours. And then you get at them and screw around like they’re a frigging chew toy. And then…when you get bored…you flense them. You sick bastards.

“Here’s the thing though… If you want to play psycho, you really ought to make sure that no one else on the field is better at it. And, should that individual happen to have a guy friend that you just shot, well—”

A roar of agony filled the canyon as Tessa shoved her knife all the way in one side and out the other! Amethyst blood spilled out all over the canyon from where she impaled the Atavashian’s leg, and more followed as she worked the blade this way and that.

“More’s the pity. So, here’s the thing. The thing is, the thing at hand, is well…do you think you can flense me before I cap you? See, certain American gangs back in the day thought capping a fool meant to shoot them. No. That’s not what it means at all. I read, a lot. Books are great. You learn all kinds of neat things in them. I read history. I love history. History frigging rocks. See, the Irish paramilitary types, and then the Red Brigades of Italy after them, loved that crap. They used guns though. But then, some mafiosos decided knives made better playthings.

“Oh bosh, I’m rambling, aren’t I? Look, the point is, I’m either going to stab your gas sack, or I’m going to kneecap you. You don’t know which one. Can you kill me before I do? Game o—”

Another roar of anguish, this one much louder and harder than the last.

“Sooooorrrrrryyyyy! I got a little excited and started early. Not very sporting of me. Neither was kneecapping you and stabbing your little gas sack. Of course, neither was shooting Reinhardt. Oh, I know, it’s a war and all that, but then, you lot started it didn’t you? So, I’ll say this real slow, right in your receptacle so you can think about my words and relay them to your friends as you die.

“What I do? I friggin’ love what I do. And, I love Reinhardt even more. So, I said it before, and I’ll say it one more time. If you want to play psycho…make damn sure you’re the baddest psycho around. Cuz you just don’t walk into a psycho’s camp and piss all over their killing ground. Think about that on your way to hell, or nirvana, or whatever you sacks of excrement believe in. It makes no difference to me in the end.”

Five foot seven with a brilliant emerald afro that easily added another four or five inches to her height, with blazing eyes the color of marmalade and burnt amber set against the smoothest caramel skin one could ever hope to gaze upon…

Tessa Bloomingale, Tessa of the Twelve, with innocent freckles belying her madness and miasma on the battlefield…

Tessa Bloomingale had only three rules in life. Don’t touch children, don’t touch her food, and don’t touch her Reinhardt.

Given the duration of the sortie on McCaffrey, the Atavashians had the unfortunate lack of foresight, to engage in all three. And for that, there would be a reckoning most foul indeed.

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