Chapter 1 – Muddy
“For Gods sake”
Roaring sirens in the tiny security room deafened The Commander, who lay down his copy of 'Der Spiegel'. Clearing his throat he spun on his chair and glanced at the radar monitor. Blinking red dots on the black screen revealed the enemies intrusion.
Herr Hauptzerstörer stood up, straightening his jacket as he strode towards the exit. He had installed a small mirror in the cramped security office so he could ensure his visage before attending matters. Pristine, of course. Despite the slow strobe of the red security alarm he could see that his uniform was pristine. The medals presented on his breast proudly shone in the dim light. With a gloved hand he touched his Iron Cross for good luck.
Pushing out his chest and with a click of his heels, The Commander threw open the door and stormed down the corridor to the main atrium with long, confident strides. His jackboots hammering, echoing on the metal floor and walls. He knew his Master preferred to be left undisturbed in the days following a reaving, and was well aware that he would be furious with any interruptions. However leisure could wait, this situation could not and required both of their immediate attention. Upon reaching the wrought iron door of his Masters inner keep he stopped, removed his glove and without hesitation pounded furiously upon the door. He could hear the booming knocks echoing within, loud enough to cover the vulgarities and screaming coming from inside.
The door opened slowly and the Commander stepped over the threshold into the large black atrium. High steel pillars supported the clear glass walls and domed glass ceiling of the massive dark hall. Soft moonlight cascaded in from the crisp cloudless night sky above in stark contrast to the abhorrent sight below. In the middle of the room lay a wide, flat stone alter carved with ornate symbols and faces now barely distinguishable from years of acid rain and wear. Towering above was an intricately patterned iron crucifix formed of interwoven metal rods, ten feet in diameter and twenty foot high. Soft, elegant lunar luminescence traced an outline of the three people present.
In the darkness, Commander Hauptzerstörer could barely make out the features of a young peasant woman suspended on the cross. She was naked, and emaciated, filthy black hair hung in clumps over her face and shoulders. Her sunken eyes were deeply bloodshot and wide with panic. Her arms outstretched and ruined, her wrists had been crudely lashed to the cross with barbed wire. She was also bound tightly by her throat. Black, dry blood covered her olive, sun darkened skin from where the weight of her body had forced the barbs up into her throat and jaw revealing the white sinew of her gullet. Her feet dangled and swayed with the rhythm of her choking, retching sobs. She had soiled herself. The poor soul clearly didn't have the energy left to struggle or support her weight and so instead hung, gagging on the spittle and bile hissing from her mouth as she wept. Below her, the Master was working.
Herr Hauptzerstörer cleared his throat. Through his fierce and military German accent he made no attempt to hide his impatience “Herr Kommandant! can you not hear the sirens? a moment of your time, bitte?”
“Just a minute” his Masters voice rolled with a lazy Texan drawl. “I'm almost finished with this purdy fine little birdie”
The Commander knew better than to interrupt. He waited. Standing ridged he placed both hands behind his back, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He watched as the moonlight eclipsed his masters buttocks rhythmically rising and lowering against the alter. Robotic pistons and synthetic muscles heaved the great body effortlessly. Hermetically sealed, his Masters ancient, haggard form existed agelessly as it had done for centuries. Only during moments like this was he ever exposed to the world outside of his suit. The Commander could see blood running from the orbits of the young woman underneath his Masters hulking form. He had removed her eyelids. Her once tanned, sun blessed skin was now ashen and mottled. Her ruined, bleached face was a matt of gore and dried blood. Large chunks of hair were missing from scalp. Wordlessly, her body convulsed with every thrust of his Masters hips. With a fierce, jarring smack the Master brought a hydraulic powered fist crashing against the side of her head, sending blood and teeth scattering across the alter. The young woman choked on blood and bone as her convulsions became more violent. Her dry, cracked eyes rolling into the back of her head as her mouth opened and closed spasmodically. The Masters pace increased as her body convulsed harder, he brought his fist crashing down for a second and third time against the woman's face. Crying out with dominant, animalistic ecstasy The Master reared up and brought his fist crashing down one last time, caving in the young girls skull, casting brain and bone and gore over the alter. Snapping quickly upright, and re-holstering his cock the Master pushed himself off the body, breathing heavily and re-attaching his groin plate, sealing his suit with a hiss. The woman's ruined naked body carried on seizing, her heels skittering and drumming against the stone surface.
The Master cracked his neck, stretched his back and turned his attention to the woman hanging from the cross. Maybe she was the dead woman's sister or mother or whatever. Neither man cared. The Master easily cleared eight foot in his mechanical exo-suit. Black synthetic muscles and pneumatics softly clicked and hissed as crimson plates of armor adjusted and settled, giving a hulking appearance to this machination of death. The Master removed his black skull-shaped helmet, gas escaping with a hiss. His face was ancient, a skull in itself. Tanned, thin skin pulled taut over sun bleached bone. His cheeks were tight, his jaw bone thin and brittle. Only a few teeth remained in his wet, seedy smile. Black, cruel, intelligent eyes were sunk deep in shadowy sockets.
“Glad you enjoyed the show there, darlin'” he purred, caressing the hanging woman's face with a boulder sized gauntlet. The Commander couldn't tell if the woman was trying to scream, cry, or puke. Her eyes were wide and darting, screaming silently. The Master moved his hand from her cheek and crudely dug at her eye socket. The woman bucked and jolted as he forced her eye from the orbit, pulling the optic nerve tight between his fingers until it snapped. She watched as the man before her placed her ruined eye into his mouth and bit down with one of his few remaining teeth. Relishing the delicious morsel he offered a crooked smile. The Commander heard the eye pop softly in his Masters mouth. The woman stopped moving.
The Master turned to The Commander. Replacing his helmet and flicking blood from his fingers he asked “Just what in that Sam-Hell can be so darn important to interrupt my… private recuperation?” Herr Hauptzerstörer cleared his throat. “There has been another breach of our defensive perimeter.” The Master visibly stiffened. “Boom.” “I am afraid so. A methane detector picked up a human signature on the outskirts of the ToxicGlass Forest, there was visual confirmation from a spydrone in the area. He could be here at any minute, and if our estimations are correct he might not be alone.” The Masters visor lit up. A glowing green cross-hair shone brightly from behind the onyx lacquer. “Well now my ol' friend, why don't lets the both of us go see if we can't make this piggy squeeeal real nice.” The Master cooed with delight, wringing his hands. “As you will, Sir.” and with that The Commander clicked his heels, turned, and made towards the door with The Master in tow. Herr Hauptzerstörer was by no means a tall or physically imposing man. Standing at five and three quarter feet tall, slim and toned. Blonde haired and blue eyed, he took pride in his appearance. His attire was a proud family heirloom from a great time gone past – an antiquated Schutzstaffel officers uniform and hat, as well as the black eye patch that covered his left eye. The black of his jacket had faded to a mottled gray after generations of service, however love and care had ensured the ensemble was as pristine and imposing as the history Herr Hauptzerstörer upheld. The old way. He stormed with a quick pace, his boots shining in the dim moonlight as they drummed out a cadence on the metal floor. For every three steps he took, The Master took one. Swinging open the glass postern and stepping out into the cool, crisp evening The Commander took in a deep lung full of the night air. Burning coke, tallow and sulphur couldn't mask the familiar, unmistakable smell of the ToxicGlass forest in full bloom. Acrid and bitter, catching in the throat and lingering like solvent. The beautiful scent of industry and war.
The Master mounted the back of the nearest Kettenkrad, drawing back the slider on his power gauntlet mounted machine pistol and inspecting the breach. The Commander hopped on the front of the vehicle, turned the ignition and settled himself as the ancient machine roared to life, coughing soot and fumes from its exhaust. Signaling at the guard tower overlooking the courtyard, automated sentries opened the gate in the chain-link fence surrounding the compound. With a whoop and a cheer the Kettinkrad roared forward slicing a trail through the slick, wet mud.
The ToxicGlass forest had a unique, haunting beauty in the twilight. Vast, deathly acres covering rolling hills of eerie, bio-luminescent fauna stretched to the horizon. The trees were squat and malformed, their bark thick and black and charred. Standing no taller than fifteen feet in height, with branches weighed down by thick, heavy crystalline structures that shimmered with radioactive viridescence. These ancient sentinels, centuries old formed a natural border wherever the ground was sufficiently contaminated they could proliferate. If you stood and listened you could hear the sound of the trees. A subtle, familiar hiss. Like pig fat dropping onto hot coals. The trees groaned and waned when the winds peaked. But not tonight. Tonight the air was still and restful except for the wailing sirens and the sound of a roaring engine.
The compound was only a few kilometers away, but still Millard understood he had only minutes – if that – to steel himself. His breath was heavy and wet, the journey over such a distance was exhausting. He was cold, ill-equipped and hours too late, if not days. He would have twisted in closer to the compound if he had been able, but there was something blotting out his foresight over the area and he couldn't risk twisting into a wall or an object. Cursing the necessity for such heedless haste Millard grit his teeth and forced himself to breathe. Can't load a gun and shoot straight when your hands are shaking. Controlling his chest and closing his eyes, Millard took breaths in slowly through his nose and gently out his mouth. He dug his heels into the mud. With his left hand he swept open his trench coat, trailing the leather through the wet mud at his feet. From the worn cowhide holster he withdrew his .357 revolver, popping the cylinder with an experienced flick of the wrist. Clenching and relaxing his right hand to get his blood pumping he began selecting the rounds he needed, and loaded them in sequence. Three .357 magnum, two high velocity flame cutters and his absolutely final very last Custom Ruby for absolutely all-or-nothing emergencies. Snapping the cylinder closed he looked around, desperately searching for a vantage point. He had twisted into the least defensible area imaginable. Behind him from horizon to horizon was the ToxicGlass, and getting any closer than a few meters meant certain death. The path ahead lead up to the central compound which is where the villagers were being kept, but between his objective and himself was a small vehicle visible in the distance rushing towards him. Millard could make out cheering and gunfire and knew he had to hide. The plateau he was standing on was flat and barren with the exception of some abandoned, decayed relics from when this area was once farmland. He rushed and crouched behind two tractor tires resting against each-other. The rubber was re-enforced but old and crumbling. He would be easily flanked in this position but there was no other more suitable alternatives among the various scattered debris.
The earth was so polluted that nothing grew here any more, this meant any rain or ground water didn't drain away. The wet soil underneath was a rank oily sludge that sank several inches when Millard took a step. He knelt down off balance, steadying himself with his spare hand as his boot slid in the mud. He was trying to limit his exposure, which was no simple task for a man of his height. Greasy, ice cold water soaked into the faded blue fabric of his denim trousers. His trench coat gliced over the mud, absorbing water. This deadly quagmire could mean his demise if he didn't remain focused. Looking through a gap in the tires he could make out two shapes rushing towards him, three, maybe four hundred meters away. A squat thin pencil of a man up front and a hulking black behemoth riding shotgun, firing tracer rounds wildly into the air, each bullet a burning spear scarring the night sky.
Reaching into his coat once more he holstered the loaded Magnum, and withdrew the Mauser pistol he had tucked down the back of his belt. Any dirt or rust could cause this antiquated weapon to jam. Lifting his muddy hand from the filthy ground he scowled. “Howay man” he spat angrily, his serrated Newcastle accent quivered fiercely with adrenaline. He wiped his shaking hand first down his jeans to remove the mud, then grabbed at the fabric of his stained, yellowing shirt to remove the sweat and moisture from between his fingers. Praying, he withdrew his only loaded Mauser clip from one of the pockets in his coat, mounted it to the breach and pushed the nine 25mm bullets awkwardly into the pistol. “Howwaaaaay maaan” he angrily pleaded, his heart racing. If his ancient gun jammed or misfired he was a dead man. He cocked the pistol and a round chambered smoothly. Thanking the Tin Gods for their mercy, Millard kissed his pistol as he stood up into a firing stance just as the vehicle coming towards him turning into a break.
“Boom!” The Master cried as he vaulted stylishly from the back of the speeding Kettinkrad, mechanical boots sliding in the mud as he hit the ground. Millard recognized the enormous SSK .950 rifle he was holding to his hip. One of a kind. The Master started walking forwards. Millard guessed around 80 paces away.
“Mill-ahd Boom! The boy himself! You done walked right into my house son!” the synthesized voice roared.
“Trigger Mortis” Millard spat, trying to control his temper. “You came all the way out here for me you fuckin' sick old bastard.”
“Indeed I did, boy!” The Master squealed with delight. “Indeed I did you sad sorry little wet nurse suckin' on yellow coward” 70 paces away
“You fucked up Trigger!” Millard spat, pointing an accusatory finger. “You broke the ceasefire! You know what this means, don't you?” 60 paces. “You let those townsfolk go or I swear to the fucking Gods I will blow you to shit!”
Herr Hauptzerstörer stepped off the Kettinkrad, took a few steps forward, withdrew his Luger from the holster and pointed it swiftly at Millard. “We don't recognize your ceasefire here, Herr Boom!” He cocked the pistol. “You have made a terrible mistake coming here you insolent fool!”
“Fuck you, you sick Nazi bastard!” Millard brayed, wiping his sweat soaked fringe from his eyes. “You let those people go right fucking now or it's war do you understand?”
“War? my boy!” Trigger laughed, “What ever are you talking about?” 60 paces.
“The men and women from Pueblo Ciudad!” Millard could feel the first spats of rain pricking his cheeks. “You took them three days ago you pervert fucker!”. He was losing his temper. His hands were sweating. His hair was in his eyes again. 50 paces. “You bunch of fannies have made some powerful enemies, I'm tellin' you! I swear to shit I will fucking end you now if you don't let those people go!”
“Let them go?” Trigger laughed, sliding a bullet into the chamber of his rifle. “Let them go?!” 40 paces. “THEY'RE DEAD YOU FUCKING IDIOT!” Trigger roared, leveling the rifle and firing off the first round dead center where Millard was stood a heartbeat earlier. Throwing himself behind the tires Millard scrabbled forward to dart out the other side, firing thrice as he rushed. The first shot missed, firing wide, but the next two rounds hit their mark. The tiny 25mm rounds bounced off Trigger's chest-plate without so much as leaving a scratch. Spying a corner of plasterboard submerged in the swampy soil Millard dived down to raise it out the mud. The saturated board was massive and shockingly heavy, but he knew Trigger had to reload each round manually in his giant rifle. At least his movements could be concealed somewhat.
“Stop him! Lock him down!” Trigger barked at Herr Hauptzerstörer while he loaded another cumbersome rifle round. “Don't let him get away!”
“Jawohl” Herr Hauptzerstörer spoke coolly, his remaining eye rolling into the back of his head, the whites of his eye glowing with a cool teal. Millard felt something in the air as this happened. Whatever force was stopping him twisting closer to the compound lifted for half a heartbeat, only to return a moment later, but above him with such tangible static force that his skin crawled with goose-flesh. It was the Commander, there was something he was doing that prevented his powers from working. At that moment he knew his target. Trigger leveled his rifle and fired blind at the flimsy wooden board punching a fist sized hole clean through, inches from Millard's nose.
Seizing the opportunity between shots, Millard unloaded the remaining six 25mm rounds in the direction of Herr Hauptzerstörer. Two bullets fired wide, one bullet ricocheted off the armored skirts of the Kettinkrad punching a hole in the fuel tank which began glugging out diesel into the mud. The other three rounds hit Herr Hauptzerstörer square in the chest, cleanly through his heart. As the rounds punched through his jacket it wasn't blood the burst forth in a juicy torrent but some manner of viscous glowing teal goo. The Commander remained upright, unfazed and mute. He clearly hadn't felt his wounds.
In the time it took this information to register Trigger had charged forward and leaped at the wooden cover that Millard was crouched behind. The force of Triggers massive body making contact with the wood took Millard off his feet, sending him flying backwards into the mud. Twisting in the air and landing heavily on his front Millard slid several foot. He could taste blood from where he had bitten his cheek as he made contact with the ground, mixed with the gritty rancid taste of dirt. His empty Mauser had landed in the mud with a wet splash several feet away. The gentle patter of rain making a soft tinkle sound on the exposed metal of the barrel. Volatile diesel had started to pool around the feet of Herr Hauptzerstörer, who either didn't notice or didn't care. Trigger took a step forward, snapping the plasterboard underfoot as Millard desperately scrabbled backwards through the mud on his elbows, drenching himself in ice-cold watery mud.
“You lose, Boom!” Millard laughed as he took another step forward. “Those ruttin pesky smallfolk died like pussy ass dawgs, screamin' and beggin' for their lives!!” He dropped his rifle to the ground, a laser dot squared on Millard's chest from Triggers gauntlet-mounted machine-pistol. “When y'all get to piss hell you can ask those precious little townsfolk'a yours who done cum the hardest when they got fucked.”
Quick as a bolt, Millard had rolled onto his side as the machine-pistol unleashed a storm of lead into the ground where just a heartbeat previously his chest had been. In one fluid motion he withdrew his .357, blind-fired two of the high caliber rounds into Trigger's chest with enough force to stagger him backwards. He fired off his final .357 round with a marksman's precision cleanly down the barrel of the machine-pistol, the bullet ripping out the back of the mechanism, bringing with it a shower of sparks and metal shrapnel. The must have also severed some vital internal hydraulics as it exited the armor. Triggers shooting arm dropped limply to his side as compressed gas and hydraulic fluid burst forth from the damaged area just before his elbow.
In a flash Millard fired off the two flame cutter rounds which burst forth from the barrel in a cascade of bright sparks and blinding light. Both rounds made contact with Herr Hauptzerstörer, dead center in the chest. The Commander had just enough time to register the white hot burning phosphorus melting through his flesh, sloughing skin and muscle from bone and spilling into the diesel through his ruined under-carriage at his feet. He uttered a soft “Oh” as the eruption from the ground bellow him forced his body apart. A burning ruined torso shot through the air in a hail of black smoke and shrapnel from the Kettinkrad. Thick blue blood ripped through the air. The Commanders corpse landed with a hefty thump on the ground, both legs and an arm blown clean off. Millard never saw this happen however as the minute the detonation occurred he felt whatever occult magic was stopping his powers dissipate immediately. He had twisted out of the battlefield before Trigger had time to register what happened.
When he re-appeared inside the central chamber he allowed himself to stop and breathe just for a moment. He had been here before many years ago and looked as though nothing had changed. Water, mud and The Commanders gore dripped from his soiled trench-coat, spreading a grotesque blue and brown blossom at his feet on the gray metal floor as he span around, attempting to digest the scene before him. He knew he had only moments before he was unable to escape – this was not the first time Millard Boom had killed Herr Hauptzerstörer. Brushing hair and grime out of his eyes and squinting in the dark he could make out the defiled corpse of a girl strewn over the alter, a mans seed running down her bruised and crushed thighs . Millard bet that if he reached over and felt the poor souls skin it would still be warm to the touch. Idiot! Idiot idiot fucking idiot if he had been a few minutes early this girl would have still been alive. He clasped at his hair with his hands, screaming and retching in fury unable to avert his eyes from the effigy before him. As he stared unblinking he heard labored breathing coming from somewhere. Spinning around and desperately trying to listen, his eyes were still adjusting to the darkness after the bright flashes of the gunfight only moments before. Long bright sunspots still blinded his eyes from the incendiary rounds. Above him! The sound was coming from above. He jolted his eyes upwards, tracing the sound of soft breathing. The woman was naked, crucified and inches from death. In that moment Millard realized that all of this might not have been for nothing!
The woman was barely conscious. Blood was streaming from her eye socket and spit and bile weakly bubbled at her lips in a ghastly rabid foam. She had shit herself. But she was still alive. Millard swiftly withdrew the five spent cartridges from his revolver, thanking his lucky stars he didn't have to spend Lady Ruby. Pocketing the empties, his experienced hands deftly reloaded five more .357 rounds into the pistol. Aiming at the barbed wire as far as possible from where this woman's wrists and neck were bound, he unleashed three rounds in lightening fast succession. The impact of the high caliber cartridges easily shattered the brittle metal wire, dropping the woman clumsily ten food to the ground. She landed with a painful crunch, folding on herself as she hit the flor. Her leg was now badly broken, exposed bone jutting out from her shin. With a pathetic mewl she pleaded “Who…” But Millard shushed her. Looking both directions over his shoulders and then leaning forward, covering them both with his coat.
“I'm the Human Profile. I'm here to help”.
And with that they were both gone.