Chapter 16 - Bigger Picture EagleRob and Lo stood in the doorway of Dr. Jerry's office as Bema and BearCat sat bounded to wood chairs. Dr. Jerry paced the floor, only stopping to look at her PSR brethren could have betrayed them. Instead, she recalled Nas' words from before, about normal people becoming 'familiars' to brutes after prolonged exposure, but Dr. Jerry wasn't buying it.
On her tenth pass, she stopped and then took a step towards the two men. "Did they give you anything to eat? Drink? Some sort of special concoction?"
Bema and Bearcat looked at one another, shrugging their shoulders. Bearcat leaned forward into his restrains, "We ate nothing outside of the supplies we carried. It's not until we came back here did we feel odd."
Turning to EagleRob and Lo, Dr. Jerry released a heavy sigh, "Leave them here overnight and tether their bindings to give them enough slack to pee and drink water. Depending if there's a PSR left tomorrow, we'll figure this out then."
"Dr. Jerry! Please!" Bema pleaded. "We're not the bad guys here. We are your family."
Bema's eyes narrow, and his voice suddenly deepens, "WE'RE THE VICTIMS HERE!"
Dr. Jerry slowly steps back, her left hand slowly reaching towards her back where she keeps a crude, makeshift scalpel.
From behind, EagleRob and Lo witness Dr. Jerry's sudden defensive actions.
"Dr. Jerry?" Lo says, his own hand moving towards his sword.
Dr. Jerry looks over at her shoulder towards the avian guard just enough, so she can still see Bema and BearCat. "Bema's voice! It's started to deepen! It's like when-"
Dr. Jerry never gets to finish her words, as both BearCat and Bema explode from their restraints. Dr. Jerry tosses her scalpel into Bema's forearm. Still, as his size continued to increase, it is doubtful he even felt it.
"Let's go, Dr. Jerry!" EagleRob screams. "We can't fight them in close quarters. Let's take this to-"
Brute Bema cuts EagleRob's words delivering a punch to his chest that takes him out of Dr. Jerry's dwelling into the middle of the street. EagleRob struggles to get up, but he's also struggling to breathe as Bema's blow has knocked the air out of his lungs. Lo goes to rush out the door to assist his fellow guardsmen but is plucked off his feet by Brute BearCat. The new Brute lifts Lo high over his head and is about to piledriver him straight into the floor when he gets a tap on his shoulder. Brute BearCat turns around and sees Dr. Jerry blow a handful of powder in his face. Immediately Brute BearCat screams out as he drops Lo and his vision blurs to darkness. He immediately goes into a raucous coughing fit.
Brute Bema turns around to see his fellow brute collapse to the ground, grasping at his neck. He races to assist Brute BearCat, which gives Dr. Jerry and Lo just enough time to grab the fallen EagleRob and disappear into the night.
Chapter 17 - Reverence With the wall leading to District 3 rapidly coming into focus, Brute Nas felt everything was going smoothly and according to plan. He knew that cutting off the heads of the snake wouldn't be easy, and the most significant battle was ahead of them. But as he looked amongst the six to seven brutes around him, he knew that whatever defenses that District 3 had, they wouldn't be unsurmountable to his forces. "Plus… "Brute Nas thought to himself, "We have the surprise!"
"How do you feel?" Kindred asked of the brute leader.
"I feel like it's time to get big again!" Brute, Nas says poignantly. Once the brutes run wild in that district, I'm going to smash open that tower and… Brute Nas cuts his own words off as his eyes narrow through the narrow PSR streets as the candlelights that hang above each street start to extinguish.
"WTF is going on?" Brute, Jancey says, as his paces start to lesson.
"Their killing the lights!" Brute Saska says. "Who cares! We don't need proper light to destroy them."
"THE DOORS TO THE DISTRICT ARE STARTING TO OPEN!" Brute Morkim grunts.
Brute Nas sees what Brute Morkimg sees, and immediately he starts to cry out. "NO… NO… NO…!!! Get the horde to stop!"
"NO!" Jindred yells back.
After getting an evil glance from Brute Nas, Brute Jindred defends his words. "We have to keep up with the crowd. If the lights have been cut, and the doors are opening, they somehow know we are coming. Our best bet is to blend with them in the darkness. If we fall behind, I think we get picked off!"
Brute Nas says nothing more as the first brutes past through the doors of District 3 without incident. It's not until the first fifty brutes or so came past the wall did PSR members emerge from rooftops that parallel the main streets. These members pushed to the edge of the rooftop long, wooden carts, with a half-dozen spiked javelins pointing out. After the brutes got within range, they pivoted the wheeled carts into position.
"Oh no!" Brute Enigmar screamed out!'
Brute Nas screamed to the top of his head for the brute horde to cease their advancement with everything he had. But to the near-mindless brutes, it was like asking for a newborn child to write their name."
"Now!" BuckysRevenge yelled out from the top of one of the adjacent rooftops. Directly across the street, Willborough nodded his head as he and other PSR brethren fired off their cart, sending dozens of tethered, six-foot spike javelins towards the brutes.
The brutes never had a chance.
The javelins not only easily pierced their bodies, but they have shot with such force that their tips embedded two feet into the earth, creating the perfect crisscrossing anchor between the ground and the rooftop.
"Free them!" Brute Nas quickly ordered.
But none of his fellow brute brethren could get a chance to carry out his order because CincyGreg and Hot Pocket sped through the immobilized brutes and dropped off baskets of fire fuel at their feet. Within seconds, the brutes became fire tinder. By the time the tethers began to fail, the brutes had succumbed to the effects of the fire.
With only less than a half-dozen of random brutes around him, besides his main crew, Nas' hopes for victor began to plummet. He knew the next few moments would determine if his plight would be successful or not. Inhaling deeply for a few seconds, Brute Nas once again took on his goliath brute persona. Not wanting to be caught in another surprise trap, he and the rest of the brutes destroyed every house between the wall and the tower. With his power once again quickly disappearing, Brute Nas had just enough strength left to punch fifty feet into the tower. Before he could remove his arm, his hand suddenly felt like it had been set on fire. Quickly removing his hand, Brute Nas was shocked to see two fingers of his hand were somehow broken.
Brute Jindred was the first to see Nas' hand. "What could have…"
"Who cares?" Morkim says as he kicks in the front door of the tower. When Morkim tries to retrieve his kick, he realizes his foot is stuck in the rubble. Suddenly Brute Morkim is lifted off his feet as Lige emerges from the tower and drags the brute back inside. Mo runs over and grabs Morkim and rips his brute brethren from Lige's grasp. Before the brutes can regroup, Councilwoman Becks emerges, sword in hand. She releases a battle cry and charges them. The brutes initially laugh. But their smiles quickly disappear as Becks dances between them, dancing and cutting, while she avoids their blows. Her attacks are far from lethal, but they are slowing them down as more and more PSR members begin showing up.
Brute Enigmar charges in and has Becks dead to the right, only to have Craigster explode from the doorway and take her to the ground. One by one, every time a brute would step up, a council member would intercept them.
Jancey stepped forward.
Bingerips and Recently took him on.
By the time Nas made it to the front of council headquarters, his brute brethren were surrounded.
"It's over!" Craigster yelled his foot on top of one of the mindless brutes.
"I can still take you ALL on by myself!" Brute Nas says. "I can still transformer and-"
"If you could still transform, you would have done it by now!" So says a voice booming from the tower's fourth-floor balcony.
Brute Nas looks up and sees Fleet with a giant warhammer strone across his left shoulder.
"How's that paw?" Fleet says teasingly to his opponent. "As Craigster just said, it's over. Give up, and we'll spare your lives. Has it not been clear to you that you and your brethren have weakened throughout the night? If we wanted you dead, we have more than enough javelins and fire to seal the deal."
"Come down here and say this!" Brute Nas.
IF Brute Nas thought Fleet would take the stairway, he was wrong.
Fleet not only took off from the very balcony he stood from, but he somehow propelled his acceleration downward faster than Brute Nas' fading reflexes could calculate. Fleet brought his oversized hammer back, and before Brute Nas could mount a proper defense, the hammer landed directly into the top of his head.
In District 3’s central courtyard, Nas awakens the next day, quickly realizing he and the rest of this incapacitated brethren not only had transformed back to the human persona’s but they were also tied up together, this time with heavy chains forged by Fleet himself overnight.
Hours went by as multiple members of PSR passed by, often taunting the captured enemy. Finally, even 610 walked by, holding two of his fingers nearly together, “You guys were this close to winning. THIS close!”
While the rest of his brethren finally started to come to, Nas gathered his strength enough to flex against his restraints, stopping only when he heard laughter coming from the back of the closest cart. Fleet stepped out, holding his gut, “The strongest among us couldn’t break that chant. If they can’t… then you can’t.
“And what happens when the sun sets in just a few minutes? These chains can’t withstand our brute form. So I won’t even have to waste the energy to go goliath.”
Fleet is about to respond when other council members lead several dozen PSR’s finest to gather around the one-time welcomed guests. Bringing up the rear, a limping EagleRob and Lo escort Bema and Bearcat, who are restrained the same way Nas and the others are. But the arm restraints are not wanted Nas focuses on. Instead, his eyes immediately focus on the spiked, metal collars around their necks.
“That’s right!” BucksRevenge says. “The same collars are former brethren are wearing, are the same ones around you and your party’s necks. Oh, you can try and get big if you wanna. But an increase in girth will cause your necks to get bigger. I may not have Dr. Jerry’s skillset, but I’m pretty sure you can’t function while losing half of your neck.”
BuckysRevenge waited all morning to deliver this line to Nas, and he was surprised when his words didn’t deflate him.
BearCat walks all the way towards Nas, stairs at the brute leader before turning to face his former family. “After everything you’ve just witnessed and experienced, you still aren’t getting it.”
The metal-on-metal sound of a sword unsheathing rings out loudly in the still air, EagleRob holds his sword up to BearCat’s neck. “And I know in a second...you won’t have to worry about losing your head over trying to be a brute because-”
EagleRob suddenly stops his threat as his left-hand cups his forehead. Seconds later, he collapses to one knee. Dr. Jerry is about to rush over but stops as Lo collapses right behind her. Fleet is beside himself as, one by one, members of PSR began holding their heads before collapsing. Then, as Nas starts to laugh uncontrollably, Fleet himself starts to feel like something is not correct.
Fleet looks towards Dr. Jerry, “What is happening?”
But the PSR doctor just mumbles on the ground incoherently.
As Fleet’s vision darkens, he slowly feels a new awakening in his body.
Later that night, Nas walks the streets of PSR freely, as brutes frolicly run up and down the streets until they eventually escape out the District 1’s main wall.
“And our restraints?” Kindred asks.
“I have a feeling that by the morning, if any actually return, they will have a considerable change of heart,” Nas responds as his laughter returns.
On late July day, the sun has started to set on the pacific, a young woman and middle-aged man painstakingly make their way through Cooper Canyon Falls, eight miles outside of Los Angelos. The male figures walks with a more noticeable limp than his female companion that he has his arm around for support. "You have to leave me!" 610 says to his female companion, before uncurling his arm away from his stinging diaphragm muscle. The woman sighs heavily, bringing her arm in at the waist. "If you say it again, I'm just going to shoot you myself!" 610 leans against the tree, pulling his water bottle from his bag. He empties its remaining content before wiping his brow. "The sun is setting, and you know what comes when that happens. But more importantly at the momment… we're lost!" Mirroring 610's gesture with her own water, Becks nods her head in agreement. "I know.. I know… we've been past this section several times. I don't think we're going to find her. You've been out here longer than me. How come you can't remember the way?" "I've been out here three weeks longer than you, and I'm from Philly, so I sometimes get lost on the campground. I swear if it weren't for-" Becks silences 610’s words with a quick left handed gesture, while her right hand finds its way to her pistol, a few seconds faster 610 as they hear the sound branches snapping in behind them. With their weapons trained in the direction, Becks, who has superior eyesight, begins to lower her weapon first, "Jerry!" "OMG, I can't believe I found you guys," the longtime friend says as she runs to the pair before delivering tight bearhugs, all the while keeping in the tears that attempt to roll down down the side of her face. "I've been looking for hours, but I couldn't find trail Lo mentioned." "That was a week ago, honey," Becks said. "We had to obscure because it kept bringing visitors we didn't want." Minutes later, the duo, plus one, finally made back to the path that only their trained eyes could distinguish it from a regular overgrown patch of forest. "Finally!" Becks says. "We're home free! It's only about twenty minutes out." The words hadn't left Becks lips for more than ten when two men in military fatigues, combat boots, and blue berets. The two men looked up 610 and the others greedily, their white teeth almost glowing in reflection of the setting sun. Then, finally, the first of the two men stepped forth, "Would you look at this RockyMountrainHigh, two girls… and a guy, all with full backpacks… undoubtedly stolen goods from the valley." "See what I said Drewg. If we hung out just a little bit longer, we'd catch somebody. Boiler is going to hook us up great for this. Might even get on CieSS' level." "Hey, wait!" Jerry cried out as she stepped forward. "This is our stuff, we're just a group of friends trying to make it back home." "Home?" Drewg responded, his smile getting even larger. "You got a place up here?" Before Jerry could even think of an adequate response to get them out of the predicament that could very quickly end in their deaths, a gunshot rings out before her, stinging her nostrils with the smell of cordite. RockyMoutainHigh fell to his feet, his blue cap gone, as a red dot began to flow evenly from Becks's precise bullet placement. Drewg looked at his assault rifle, then looked back up at 610, who already had him dead to rights, "Wait… I won't say anything. I swear to you. Better yet, I never even seen you guys tonight at a-" 610's shot instantly silences Drewg's plea. Jerry immediately turns around in her companion's direction, "WHY???" Becks' grabs Jerry softly by the shoulder, "You aren't familiar with the Blue Hats where you are from gal, but trust me when I say, if we had let those guys go, we would have had twenty times their number here by sunrise." "I don't want to break it to you, but if we don't get out of this forest in the next fifteen minutes, we are going to come across something far worst than the blue hats." "They're that bad up here?" Jerry asked. Off in the distance, eerie gargling sounds begin to start filling up the darker parts of the forest. Becks looks toward Jerry, "Put it like this, we have ten times your population, and the closet clinic was only six miles from here. So if we aren't at Fleet's before the sun is down, you are going to get your answer the hard way." "W-Wati!" a raspy voice called out from the underbrush before the figure the voice belongs to fully emerged." "Vikes!" Becks released in jubilation. "You found us… and with not a moment too soon. Becks maneuvered herself to give VIkes a hand when suddenly a stiff hand from 610 kept her from getting any closer. "610, what are you doing?" "Look at him!" the former Philadelphia Officer responds Becks trains her eyes on Vikes' face as she sees her long-time friend's eyes watering, his cheeks flush and bulging. "He's trying to hold in a cough! Jerry says. As if on cue, Vikes suddenly explodes into spasmatic coughing convolutions. Immediately Becks and company all begin to back up."Vikes… your cough. Are you?" "No! NO. Becks, you have to believe me. I just had some water go down-" VIkes words are cut short as he again falls victim to a series of violent coughing, this time taking him to the ground. Jerry turns to flee, quickly followed by 610. As the others disappear into the forest, Becks turns around one last time, her eyes locked in on the tear-streaked face of VIkes, his wavering right hand outstretched in a vain attempt to reach her. Becks turns towards the others and flees, knowing despite her outward appearance, a part of her is dying on the inside by leaving her old friend behind.