Amalek held the lens in-front of Stewart. “Nice security, lieutenant.”
“I am sorry Lord Amalek. Sir, we were not expecting to stop here. I did not get a chance to do a proper sweep…”
“You are the chief of security for this platoon, are you not?”
“Is providing protection a part of your job?”
“Wouldn’t you call this a gross dereliction of duty?”
Stewart did not speak.
“I see. You are quick to run to the Overlords when you wish to maintain discipline, but when it comes to your discipline, not to quick to condemn, heh?”
Stewart stood stock still.
Amalek threw him the broken pieces of the bug. “Take it. Find the frequency. He must be receiving the signal from somewhere nearby. We can use it to pinpoint his location.”
“Yes sir.” Stewart gave the salute, took the broken lenses and walked back toward the Caravan.
“Uw ’ere kindar ruff on’im, don’t you tink Lord?” Niles said, sidling up to Amalek.
“Fuck him. Skull faced bastard. I know what he is. He isn’t one of us. Watch him. First sign of trouble, I’ma pull his coat for him.”
Niles nodded. “E’ww kno ahm wid e’ww sah. But, wat bout dis rogue? Why ’uch ’tillery fo one man? Y’s ee so ’portant?”
“Shut the fuck up. And learn to speak the queens English for God’s sake, you still can’t find a fuckin translator for that fucked up accent of yours?”
“Don’ ’ant one sah, d’ont n’eed one.”
“I think you do. You sound like a fucking retard when you speak the way you do. You see anyone else talking like a fucking gimp? Everyone has a C.I.A, even Tartari babies get outfitted with one. How is that you are the only person on this lonely Earth that still speaks like a fucking degenerate?”
“Jus’ luckee ah guess sah.”
“Well, we’re not lucky, those of us that have to listen to you. Fuckin Christ.”
“Find this guy. Those are your orders. Take the beasts and the flyers and have them scout the Exile Enclaves. I want grid formation Arkansas, spread it- like a S.A.R. *(Search and Rescue.) Full recon, spectra’s on.”
“No kill. Capture. We want this monkey alive.”
“Just do your fucking job!”
Niles gave the salute. “Yes sir!” And walked back to the Caravan.
“Humans. Un-fucking believable. I can’t believe we used to run from these goddam apes.” Amalek looked toward the tower, ablaze, miles away.
“I know you’re out there sis. I’m gonna find you. And I swear to God, you’re going to pay.” The tower made no indication that it had hear his oath. As far as Amalek could tell, that Argo had been burning for nearly five years with no signs of slowing down. It was hard to even tell if the fire had spread. The structure was so massive that a fire could conceivably be burning forever.
Amalek hoped it would, he hoped that Argo and all the people still hiding in it would burn to ash. He always hated Argos, but that particular Argo he loathed. “That’s where it all began.” He said to himself. He was born there. His first memory was there, biting into his new mother’s tits, chomping at her lactating nipples, hungrier than all the empty bellies in Hell. But it wasn’t milk he wanted. No, not that. It was what was underneath those heaving breast. It was her blood, her body. He could still smell the heat of the blood, like a warm blanket on a freezing cold day, it was primal.
He didn’t remember the look of the Medicrats faces when he bit deep into his mom with his fully grown adult teeth, teeth that would never stop growing, not even after he was dead. Amalek closed his eyes. That first bite, that feeling of the warm blood rushing into his tiny heart, how everything become alive for him. He didn’t cry upon birth like other babies, that was his cry, that was his burst into life.
The staff at the genetics center where he was born hated him. Even as he suckled his mothers blood into his starving body he recalled their hate and revulsion, his first moment of life was his first instance of hate. As if it was he who had made himself this way, as if he was the one who asked to be cursed into being a vampire. No, he didn’t ask for it, it was cursed onto him. And he would make them all pay for it.
Amalek turned around, it was Lieutenant Stewart.
“What the fuck do you want?” He asked him.
“We have a triangulation. It’s faint, but we think we can pin point it once we’re in about a klick away.”
“You fucking little cock-sucker, is that what you interrupted my reverie for?”
Stewart looked confused. “Ugh..what?”
Amalek made a sudden move with his arms, as if he was going to grab Stewarts neck, but in what seemed to be an extreme level of anger management, he stopped mid-air, shut his eyes and took a deep breathe. He pointed to the Argo.
“Lieutenant, do you know what that is?”
“What is it?”
“The Aeronaut. The last remaining Argo.”
“You know why else it is so special?”
“That is where the first…” Stewart stopped mid-sentence and looked grimly at his commander.
“You can say it.” Amalek said helpfully.
“That’s where the first Tartari on this continent was born. This was the first time that we saw that despite the quarantines and the precautions, the…virus was spreading.”
“Virus? Heh…That’s what you called us, heh? A virus?”
“We called your kind many names sir.”
Amalek stared into Stewarts eyes, but said nothing. “You liked it, heh? Hunting the vampires.”
“We only hunted those who broke the law…sir.”
Amalek laughed. “The law? We broke the law the minute we were born.”
“Those laws were there to keep your kind…”
Amalek took a step toward Stewart, who swallowed whatever it was he was about to say. Instead he simply said… “Safe.”
“Safe? Yeah. Hunting us. Forcing our kind to run out into the Dark, digging into the earth like badgers just to get water.”
“Your kind doesn’t drink water, sir.”
“No, but our families did. My mother did, Stewart. She stuck with me through it all. When they tried to take me away from her, she fought them, as did my father. They let them take me, though it cost the family everything. Finally- your kind- the X-terminators, drove us into the Enclaves. Where it was sheer survival.”
Stewart said nothing.
“No human remorse, Stewart?”
“No sir. We were just doing our jobs.”
“That what the Nazi’s said in Ancient Germany when they killed over six million indigenous religious folk in their own country, their very own children.”
“I’m not a Nazi.”
“No. But you kill women and babies, do you not?”
“Better than eating them I guess…sir.”
Amalek laughed. “Not so dumb after all, are you Stewart.”
“I like to think so sir.”
“So, since you’re so smart, let me ask you, you know why they call us Tartari?”
“The Tartar peninsula, originally in the Azerbaijani- Armenian border, was where the first acknowledged recordings of the Tartari were sighted.”
“Why the history lesson sir? Am I supposed to give a shit? Because I don’t. I’m here as a liaison between you and the Overlords. That’s it. My personal opinions mean nothing.”
“You speak to the Overlords. You can tell them what we are doing here.” Amalek said. By this time, most of the soldiers in the Caravan had wrapped around Amalek and Stewart.
“What are we doing here? Sir. You brought us out here, an entire platoon. You didn’t wait for any word or approval.”
“My friend died. You don’t see that giant mushroom cloud? What do you think that is? A hamburger.” The Caravan laughed.
“That’s not protocol! This isn’t your private army. We have a chain of command.”
Amalek laughed. “Well, hello Stewart. I was wondering when skull-crusher would show up, I was kinda getting tired of the blathering sycophant.”
Stewarts fist involuntarily bunched. “You can taunt me, but the Overlords will hear about this, all of this.”
“Snitch. You know what happens to snitches out here, Stewart? There aint nothing out here but us, whose to say you don’t have a little accident, huh? Or this bandit-outlaw, Zildjan doesn’t kill you, way he did the Vulture Hawks and Goorm and the rider? Who’s to say you made it out here at all, hmm?
Stewart reached for his Repeater Rifle, hanging from his belt, but stopped midstride when he saw the group of silent eyes watching him. He understood. He had no friends out here. Amalek was mocking him on purpose, taunting him. Amalek wanted a reason to kill him, the more public the better.
“Yes, sir.” Stewart replied simply, going back to his stoic expression on his tattooed face, loosening his grip on his weapon.
“You are such a fucking coward. Jeeeeze-us, X-terminator heh? Fuck. More like a’fucking Care Bear you ask me, heh?” The audience laughed and snickered, delighting in his humiliation. “Let me ask you a question, Lieutenant, why are you here? Why did you follow us into the L.O.D? You knew where we were going. Why not just run back to the temple to tell the Overlords? Why follow us out here if you don’t believe?”
“I’m part of this unit, sir same as you, sir. We’re on a mission. I believe in the mission. One Earth.”
The Caravan replied automatically even if half throated. “One Earth.”
“One Earth. Very well. Then you understand that is why we are out here Lieutenant. One cause, One Earth, One Solution.”
“Yes.” Stewart responded.
“Then follow me.” Amalek said to him emphatically, his red eyes lighting up.
“I follow the rule of law. I follow the Overlords. One Earth for all of us.”
“Of course. Of course. Because, why would a human like you have anything to do with Tartari blood eater like me, right?”
“Sir, is this the time?”
“Is this the time? Is this the time?” Amalek stared out to the cloud hanging over the desert like a giant light bulb. The Caravan watched him carefully, aware of his every movement and action. It seemed as if a weight had been placed on their shoulders, a invisible heaviness which they yet failed to understand or dignify. Only Amalek felt the call, to voice the concerns of the men.
“You know, Lieutenant, that is a great question. Is this the time? Is ‘it’ the time. Who would have thought someone like me- hunted, persecuted, left for dead, would be giving orders to a platoon of battle hardened men, who were once sworn to kill me. And now, here in LOD, between the Wasted Waze and the barren rocks of the irradiated fields we have… an opportunity.” The men stared at him. “When I was born, they tried to kill me. The Medi-crats prodded me, poked me, tore me apart. But my father and mother managed to escape with me. We lived in Enclaves near North America. Before the Cataclysm. That is why we are here. That is why I sent Goorm. The same signature of power which flashed when Goorm exploded, was made from the same signature that caused the Cataclysm. We thought the power source gone, descending in the Waze in the ruck sack of that insane man whom took the girl, the Cube, and ran. For so long it was thought to be lost. Yet, it is not lost it is here, in LOD.”
“How do you know it is here?” asked a voice from the platoon.
“Why? Because I can feel it. It is capable of re-starting the engine of the world which has been broken for so long. We could re-invigorate our technological stores, re-start the reclamation process of the world, terra-form the radiation fields, even re-populate some of the plant and animal life which has gone dead due to the high levels of toxicity. And not only that, we could create new technologies far exceeding those of even the Outworlders, who left us all here to starve to death.” His face twisted in pain. “For too long we have been vying and fighting for scraps, hustling what we could, with the power-source, we could do anything.”
“Why not tell the Overlords this?” Stewart asked.
“The Overlords? They are weak-weak sissy-boys, heh? They only want the Earth. We could have the stars!”
“No.” Stewart said calmly.
“No. You are as mad as they say. This is foolishness. You risk our top sha-man, and the plan of Baal?”
“I risk nothing.” Amalek countered.
“What you’re talking about now is not only treason, its madness. I read about that power-source technology in the reports. It’s unstable at best, pyrotechnic at worst.”
“It can be stabilized.”
“That isn’t so. The casing which cracked and caused the Cataclysm was Uhura.”
“No, there was a flaw. The source can be harnessed and utilized. Believe me.” Amalek said.
“The Overlords will never approve it. Let the technology stay buried in the Wasted Waze.”
“It doesn’t sound like you’re on board Lieutenant,” Amalek said darkly.
“No, sir. Your dangerously close to sheer treason, and I will report this, all of this back to the Overlords. This whole mission is outside…” So fast was Amalek’s un-human movement that Lt. Stewart never even saw him move. One second h\e was speaking, then almost like a magic trick,
Amalek’s sword protruded three feet through Stewarts back, the blade slicing beyond his chest cavity, cracking past the rib cage like it was made of air. Blood spewed out in a torrent, bathing Amalek in it. Amalek didn’t mind. He grabbed the sword’s long handle, and with both hands retracted the blade clean through, sawing through flesh and bone.
“Praise Baal!” Amalek said. The Caravan mimicked him, “Praise Baal!” They chimed.
Amalek sunk his hand through the open and gushing chest cavity of the soon-to-be-dead Stewart, and grabbing his heart, he pulled it out of his body. For a few tense seconds Lieutenant Stewart had the odd sight of watching his still beating heart held in the hands of a living monster. As Stewart died, the last thing he saw was Amalek calmly eating the beating muscle like it were an apple.
As soon as his heart was entirely consumed, which took all of three minutes for Amalek’s giant jaws, Amalek paid his attention back to the crowd. “Men, you are with me?”
“Hurrah!” The men exclaimed, delighted and engorged by the blood-letting.
“Goorm was one of us. He understood why we are here. We are family, we are brothers. Our mission is important and deep. Let us not forget that.” Amalek looked at the decapitated witch, still burning in the fire. “Tombstone is a bunch of burnt out hippies and children playing Lord of the Flies. Yes, news has flashed that there is a Walker. A man who strolled through Hell and came out smelling sweet!”
The men laughed.
“They call that man Prophet. You know what I call him? Fictitious.”
All the men laughed harder.
“No one walks out of the Waze. No one has, no one ever will. You know what this really is? Desperation. The men on this world are afraid. They know that we are coming, and they know what we are coming for. We are coming for them. We are the chosen ones, the chosen people. Us, Tartari and you, human, in the only match that will ensure our survival. Marauder!”
All the men bellowed their approval.
“Find him, he’s hurt, injured, poisoned. If he is alive, then kill him. But not before he reveals where the source is.”
“What is it? This source?” Asked one of the men.
“It’s power beyond imagination. The only thing on this world worth anything. Find it, bring it back to me, and I will show you paradise in Hell.”
The all men all cheered.
“Can we get to the town before this man does?” Niles asked.
“No, not now. Best maneuver is to follow his trail, through the Enclaves, if he’s not already dead.” The Caravan agreed. “Rauders!” Amalek shouted. “Hoo-Rah!
“Hoo!Hoo!Hoo!Rahh!” They chanted back at him.
Then they all went to their vehicles, which roared to life and the hunt began.
The last one to mount his Tanker and follow his band was Amalek. Instead he walked over to the decapitated head of the witch. He grabbed her blackened hair and looked into her empty eye sockets. He put her head down on the ground and clamped his foot on top of her brain. Sounds of slow splintering, cracking, then a final bursting pop as her brains, partially liquified already, leaked over the ground from the newly flattened skull. He walked back to the Tanker and sat in the drivers seat.
“What was that?” Niles asked, sitting next to him in the cab.
“What was what?”
“That thing, with Una, the witch.”
“Oh, didn’t you know?”
“I hated that cunt. Why the fuck you think I had her tied to a tree as rape bait?”
“Never really bothered to think about it.”
The Tanker sprang to life.
“Now, lets go get this sum-bitch.”