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Gage

By Ryk Brink All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Scifi

Blurb

Gage is an action adventure sci-fi steampunk western based on the life of a Phineas Gage from an alternate timeline. His world conquered before he was born, his people in mental bondage, enslaved by an unfeeling alien race hovering over the clouds watching with an icey gaze. An 'Accident' on the job leaves his face scarred and his brain damaged, he survives but he's not the same man, someone else came back. Determined now from forces beyond himself to tear down the shell of his world and expose the rotting underbelly one body at a time.

Tupelo

The following are scraps of news articles and the personal diary of one Alexander Ford a known associate and collaborator with the man known previously before the great war as Phineas Gage.

June 4th 1849

I remember I was working as a mopboy at the time in McClusky’s bar. It was in the middle of a nowhere. A border town called Tupelo. This was when I first met the man who would later be recorded in the news apparatus as a terrorist and a madman.

It was a fairly average late afternoon in a relatively sleepy little town all things considered. We’d heard talk of revolts and crime and violence from the rebels and real action and adventure in these parts. Mostly stories spun from wonder of the unknown. But it was rarely reported anywhere but the radial transmissions and the tubescopes placed throughout the town. But most of the time they were just playing music or displaying some kind of sports activity, or some event in the capitals. Usually award ceremonies where Cyclon dignitaries gave other Cyclon dignitaries awards for peace or love or some such thing.

It was before I was born that they actually came, supposedly they’d been amongst us for a long time moving around not having a home to call their own. According to the tubescope we weren’t very nice to them, hating and fearing them just because they were different so they say. And then there was a time when we, being humans, decided we wanted to kill them all. The history books didn’t really say why, but it was reckoned that we were just ruled by evil men.

Well after that people felt so sorry for them, using our technology and theirs we built them a home in the stars. My people felt so guilty we took them in with open arms and if we didn’t we wouldn’t even have radials or tubescopes or the sportsballs we have and we’ve lived in peace ever since then. Or so I had come to believe in my young mind at the time.

I’d never once questioned the way the world was, my world was what the tubescope told me it was. With it’s bright coloured and smiling faces and awards and sportsballs and dreams of a better tomorrow, love and peace. I couldn’t even conjure the words in my head to even contemplate the lingering feeling of unease until that day.

It was unusually hot and I remember it vividly as I write it now, despite it being almost twenty years ago. As I sit on my bunk writing this now going on possibly the last mission I will ever fly about to drop the bombs that’ll end this damn war and free my people forever. I still remember that feeling in my chest when he told his story and the look in his eye as he spoke, the look he gave me.

Nothing much had happened that day, just the usual morning drinkers drowning their various sorrows. There were some miners who were working up on a quarry on the ridge mining gold for shielding shuttles and circuitry. McClusky the barman was scratching his bald head and craning his neck to watch the recaps from the latest sportsball game. I remember there was a lot of controversy recently as the sportsball league had lost it’s last human player. An act was passed to allow Kaftas to play after that it was all downhill, the aliens being physically superior in everyway the human players just couldn’t compete with that and they became tokens in their own game, there only for the fans.

But eventually they were gotten rid of entirely and after some slight protest from the fans it went on as usual. Any hold outs were ususally shut up by someone calling them speciesest or a bigot and reminded about the constitution and meritocracy. That the aliens should replace the humans if they do a better job. They had no real argument against that, only that it was their game despite most of the owners of the teams being aliens themselves we clung to it with some ancestral memory of it being ours.

I was never interested in sports being a skinny lad of around fourteen. As I said it was a boring day which made the appearance of a stranger all the more memorable.

He was a stout scholarly looking gentlemen with a bowler hat and an expensive looking suit, a city man no doubt accompanied by two anthropoid non-humans cloaked in human garb. These were not the same stock as the ruling Cyclon but a mutt-like hybrid of human and alien, not quite human but not quite alien, the stock of which made up the majority of the sportsball teams now. Although some had speculated that they weren’t from this world at all. They were much larger than humans with darker thicker skin like that of a rhino or elephant but had a vaguely simian appearance equating somewhat to a human face but far less expressive and desirest of empathy or any such human emotions. And although the face was ape like it had an elongated quality akin to a dog’s snout. The aliens commonly used them as security or bodyguards and they made up a great deal of the cities new police force. As they could take orders without question and follow them through with fearful brutality and they were moreover entirely expendable. Another could be plucked out of circulation within a day as they were so easily bred and they aged faster than humans so as these hulking monsters could in fact have the same number of years as I had then. In fact it was probably preferable for them to have the minds of children, not as to say the adults were much smarter. They were definitely stronger and faster with heightened senses of smell and sight. They could tear a human apart if ordered to do so but their intelligence and resolve was somewhat lacking in respect to a humans but I imagine now that was precisely the point, making them more pliable to the mind control the Cyclon used.

In their native tongues, they were known as Kaftas but we colloquially called them ‘Luggers’ or ‘Lugs’ as they were most commonly used in these parts for manual labour. But in recent times it had become impolite or not politically correct or speciesist to use these terms.

They wore human clothes but that just furthermore outlined the inhuman nature of their aspect. Seeming almost a parody of humanity as they stood so huge and hunched. Monsters wearing the clothes of men, their faces ridged and apelike as they gaped their mouths thoughtlessly.

The man leading them was a jovial looking sort, with a fat neck and small greasy looking mustache which was pruned and neat and leapt about his face as he spoke like a tick.

I couldn’t rightly hear what he was saying but he smiled and tipped his hat as McClusky looked at his huge bodyguards and got a squirrelly look about him like he wanted to crawl under a giant mouse trap.

McClusky didn’t say much but I could see his throat swallowing and his head nodding furiously as he was listening waiting to give up his own mother. As soon as he was prompted he pointed a fat sweaty finger at a darkened table in the corner hidden as it was behind a shaft of light from the window.

The stranger smiled and tipped his hat before tossing him a gold coin McClusky fumbled and stared at intently as the strange city folk passed under the shaft of light and sat down at the table in the corner.

The bar was small with few hiding spots, so how I’d failed to notice the other stranger was just due to my own uncurious nature at the time or quite simply because at that time the stranger did not want to be noticed.

The inside was dark as a rule, as most of the people in the bar were just trying to get out of the sun or sleeping off the drunk they had from the night before. Or just old timers with no better place to be.

But I remember even Mr Rickers the pianist hit a bum note as he saw the new faces, he sat on his stool at the piano tucked under the stairs. Madame Gertrude the old whore that worked upstairs stood in the middle of the stairs balancing on the banister watching them go with a wrinkled suspicious gaze and then shot me a school teacher sneer as she noticed me watching her. Mary Sue, I suppose she was a waitress although Madame Gertrude wanted to train her up as a whore but from what I heard she wasn’t much good at it stood open mouth gawping holding up a tray of nothing.

The human of the group sat down at the table in the corner with a smile in the back of his head, taking off his bowler hat and placing it on the table. Without saying a word he took out an ornate pipe and lit it taking big bellowing puffs from it as his non-human compatriots stood off to his side looking out the slats in the window standing as if they were children waiting for their mothers to be done browsing in a hat shop.

He cleared his throat and I edged a little closer to hear what he was saying.

“Is your name Phineas Gage?” The strange fat man said.

Noticing only the slightest movement, so slight it could have been imaginary, the figure he was talking to suddenly became visible. Siting still as he was in the shade, it was as if my eyes adjusted at that minute and I suddenly had that unusual face burned into my memory. To say he was grotesque would have been an exaggeration but under the hideous scar on his face was the face of a handsome man in his late twenties with a strong jaw and dark black hair cut neatly.

But his face, my god his face was a monstrous mess, as if he was half demon and how I did not notice him instantly upon his appearance has been blotted out from my memory. As how I could ever forget that face seems impossible. For if it were not the face of such as I know now, a monumental figure, I would think it the face of the devil himself.

And that’s how I felt at that moment, and a few after as I stood frozen thinking I was half in a dream as I looked upon his waxen features. Half his face looked like it had been chewed by Cerberus himself, his left eye closed, blinded and gone although he wore no patch. Which made his appearance all the more horrifying as half his face was handsome and strong and the other looked like that of a mangled corpse.

I might have pissed myself right then and there if I hadn’t just come back come back from writing my name in the dust outside.

The stranger with the horrific face looked up from his meal which consisted of a steak and some mashed potatoes and a glass of milk, with his one good eye. His jaw was locked and strong and he took up the glass of milk with one hand, his other out of sight and unmoving as if he had no use of it and he took a long gulping drink of it like it was a magic elixir and then hit the glass down hard and licked his lips of the white liquid gasping and sighing.

The fat man in the chair still smiling trying to look as casual and powerful as possible. Trying not to cross his legs and look anymore than a plucked peacock.

“I ask again sir” he said in a city accent. “Is your name Phineas Gage”

“What of it?” The stranger said. He looked at them stonily as he took the fork that rested on his plate and scooped up mouthful of mash potatoes and forced it into his misshapen mouth with his good hand. Then following it up by picking up the steak he evidently couldn’t cut with his good hand and taking animalistic bites from it. The fact it was larvae steak and not beef as cows had gone instinct from over farming a decade prior made it an especially grotesque sight as the thing was essentially a giant maggot. He ripped at it and it burst with a vile grey green liquid dripping down his chin. He wiped it away with the sleeve of his good hand while his other arm was rigid and seemingly useless.

I wondered if he hadn’t been in some kind train accident or mine collapse which had left his body mangled. I let my eyes adjust and get a better look at him and at first he had seemed of an average size as I compared him to the gargantuan monstrous nature of the Lugs accompanying the relatively dimunuitive stranger. But now maybe just from my memory, he seemed too a giant of a man, with broad mountainous shoulders and thick long arms like a gorilla with hands that were calloused and looked as if they’d worked everyday from birth. Hard back breaking soul crushing work, from tit to shovel to pickaxe to grave. He wore a thick brown woollen coat and a dirty dusty white shirt underneath.

“There a bounty on my head?” The man I now know as Gage said in an uncaring way as he continued to eat in this strange savage way not looking at these city folk.

“Quite a sizeable one” The man tutted. He crossed his legs finally as he was accustomed moving onto the next stage of his persona. “But I’m not a bounty hunter Mr Gage, I am a medical doctor of a new field entirely, a psychiatrist sent from the city, I’m not here to hurt you, I’d just like to study you.” He said it deflating, as if it was a magic tune everyone was supposed to dance to. “Doctor Herbert Westwood at your service” He said reaching out a pudgy hand only to hold it there for a few awkward moments. Getting heavier with every second to eventually drop it with a hurt twitching of his little neat mustache.

Gage snorted and spat out a piece of grubby sinew and continued to eat.

“I’ve heard about your case and I’ve been given permission to take you in under my care, in return all your past crimes will be forgiven.”

“Crimes, what would they be?”

“Murder”

Gage twisted his hideous face and looked up with his one good sharp eye and said “And what if I tell you to take your alien mutts outside and fuck eachother?” He spat, his voice slaked in a cool simmering rage as he chewed.

“Well then I’d have no choice but to…” His voice trailed off as he clicked his fingers and the misshapen creatures poorly cloaked in human clothes lumbered forward like animals. Such a stark viciousness emitting an ape like cry to battle bulging through their clothes with grotesque muscles and sharp canine teeth bared, their backs raised in a threatening gesture like a dog or a wolf.

The whole bar froze instinctually like rabbits hearing the roar of a lion. The women let out tiny squeaks of fear their bodies locked tight and their eyes unshakeably focused on these creaures suddenly shedding their human façade and revealing themselves as the monsters they undoubtedly were. I too froze unable to look away from some far flung cave man instinct passed down, staring and waiting.

I was just a boy and I knew if it was inclined, these beasts could devour me and everyone here if allowed to do so.

“Ah ah” The man tutted. The beasts heeled breathing deeply and heavily their huge grotesque frames rising and falling as they seethed with a vicious vulgarity. A vile steam coming out of their nostrils.

“We kill dreg nuh?” One of the beasts asked without turning his dog like head.

“No, they want him alive.” The man straightened his mustache, his eyes making two sharp points on his round face and he said. “They’ll want to make an example of him.”

Gage continued eating and didn’t even look at the man anymore. He hadn’t moved a muscle since it all started except to eat. He didn’t even look at the Luggers, like they weren’t there.

“I’ll give you one last chance to come peacefully, it won’t end well for you any other way.” The man was sincere now, but a condescending sincerity that got a piercing icey look from Gage with his one good eye.

The man knew exactly what that meant and he slowly stood putting his hat back on his head, his pipe still in his mouth.

He sighed and said “You’re a sick man Mr Gage, I can help you.” He looked at Gage but his face hadn’t changed, he sighed again and said “Very well Mr. Gage, have it your way. Luntz, Kurbt schnell! The fat man clicked his fingers again and stepped back as the fiends fell on all fours and circled left and right from Gage’s table in what little space they had. Seemingly weaving or attempting to strike from different angles

The entire bar was still frozen, unable to look away as the creatures surveyed their prey. Gage looked up with his one good eye and followed them as they sized him up. Their clawed feet on all fours making a sharp clacking scratching sound on the wooden floor. The first creature sniffed and made a growling sound in his throat and said “This one not so-“ The things head suddenly exploded with a cacophonous booming noise that sounded like god clearing his throat. The shards of it’s brain and bone matter pulping against the base of the stairs spattering slightly on the Madame’s slippers, although she managed to stifle a scream. The second reacting instantly throwing the table aside and pouncing on Gage snapping at the air. It’s powerful jaws trying to bite at his face but the thing was held there by Gage’s good arm as the thing slobbered all over him. Then a another booming cracking noise shook the entire place. I could hear the glass on the bar shake and could almost feel my bones shudder at the terrible noise and the sight of the things back erupt in bone and innard debris all over the tossed table with the remnants of Gage’s dinner on the floor.

I managed to keep my breakfast down, although the smell alone was hard to bear. I had thought when they came in it was strong, but now, in their current state they smelled even worse.

Gage finally stood and I could hardly believe my eyes, he must have been seven or eight feet tall as I remember it now. It could be just that I was so small but thinking back he was a freakishly large man with hands the size of a horses head. It could also have been that he picked a table that was in the corner beside the stairs where the roof was a little lower. But at the time I was lacking the education the rebellion had given me, otherwise the sight of him would have conjured images of Zeus and Atlas towering over man.

There was a muted hissing wimpering noise and I could see that the second creature was still alive spilling it’s innards on the dirty wooden floor I had yet to sweep.

Gage towered over it now, tucking something under his good arm he reached down grabbing with both hands the top and bottom of the lugs jaws and with a quick powerful jarring motion snapped them apart. I remember the women in the bar letting out another little squeaking noise as he put the other creature out of it’s misery, the sound of it’s whimpering hissing ending almost instantaneously.

That was the point that my breakfast made a return journey on the bar floor and down the side of the counter, ham and eggs.

Then the sound of small pieces of metal hitting the wooden floor and rolling, rolling through the blood and brain and bile.

The fat man nervously loaded small bullets into a travelling revolver his pipe nervously bobbing in his mouth as he bit down on it. His fat swollen fingers dropping the occasional bullet as he frantically tried to load the gun a bullet at a time. His face red and hot and wet.

Gage rose again to his full height and the man tried to smile cockily relying on the small gun in his hand, a streak of doubt crossing his nerve struck mind, would that gun even kill such a man or just make him angrier.

Gage took the thing he had tucked under his arm back into his left hand and let it hang by his side and I could see it clearly as a big custom hog leg made for his giant mits. It was shocking to me having only at that time seen guns in picture as they had been banned for civilian use.

*note to the reader – a Hog leg in the old era was what was used to refer to a fire arm that was sawed off at both ends and fired a sort of shot dispersal projectile which proved very effective as a close range weapon.

Westwood saw the gun hanging at his side and his mustache twitched into something resembling a nervous smile.

“A sawn off shotgun” He smirked. “I do believe you’re out of rounds my goodfriend.” A certain air of shakey confidence was returning now as his mustache bounced off his fat cheeks and his fat fingers danced and drummed happily on the pearl handle of the small revolver in his hand. “Now why don’t we just come along quietly-“

“Count again” Gage said as he raised the gun and pointed the lead chucker in Westwood’s general direction at which point he and I and McClusky all could see quite clearly it in fact had three barrels.

*Note to the reader weapons such as the shotgun commonly only had two barrels although some had three or even four but were for specialised use.

“Three?” Westwood’s smile fell off his face like dung from a donkey’s ass and he went white and waxy losing all tension, allowing his pipe to fall from his wet lips and onto the dirty floor.

Gage’s face stayed hard and evil and gestured with the huge gun and in an instant Westwood had dropped his gun as if it was hot coal or a venomous snake.

Gage walked slowly back to his seat which lay on its side keeping the gun partially raised although he didn’t have to. Westwood knew as well as anyone a man like him used a gun only to spare his bare hands.

He lifted the table and chair back on it’s legs and dusted the seat of his chair off and sat placing the gun in his lap and sat silently waiting.

Westwood stood silently, forgetting to breath in intervals, holding his breathing and swelling and swallowing and gasping like some snuffling pig looking at a man in a butchers apron.

Gage nodded at him and he took his seat back up and slowly Westwood did the same. Then there was a moment where an eternity of silence passed before someone spoke and of course it was Westwood.

“How did you know I was coming?”

“Didn’t.”

“But the gun, you always eat with it on your lap?”

Gage nodded slightly.

“And what if there’d been four of us, what then, what would you have done?”

“Reloaded.”

“I see” Westwood had put his white face in his hand and was shaking uncontrollably and searching for his pipe forgetting that he dropped it looking down the barrel of the gun. Coming up empty he found a the courage of the damned and sputtered “Dammit, what is it now?”

“You wanted to know.”

“Know what?”

“How I got this face”.

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