I've been kept busy, my friends. My most sincere apologies for leaving you hanging. However, on this Christmas night, I finally have some spare moments to catch you up on the more... interesting events that have occurred as of late.
The Highers are not what I would call... "pleased" with the amount of time I have been wasting with Jerome. But, as they say, you can't rush art. And, art, this truly is. My little detainee deserves no less. And, what is most glorious? I'm not done yet. I'll been torturing with a method that is as maddening as it is NOT lethal. So, no, )*Serve*(, you have not missed any deadline to submit your visions. Not overall, anyway. Pleased?
Since I have been... out and about with other missions that Highers felt they needed to place upon my shoulders, I required a way to... keep him waiting for me while drilling into his psyche as much as possible.
Luckily, I happen to know of such a way.
It is called the Street Sweeper's Daughter. A lovely little device that was mostly used in Russia and the Middle East. I made a makeshift version of it. It's designed to be the Little Sister, if you will, to the infamous Rack. Only instead of stretching the body... it compresses it together. Drawing the legs into one's chest and the head down to the knees. Intense muscular cramps and loss of blood circulation are the worst this little joy has to offer... if, that is, you don't count the psychological damage.
Imagine it. For a moment, just imagine yourself in this situation.
Locked in a cold basement far from the knowledge of any other living being on the planet. Barely any sound. No windows to tell the passing of time. Held in the sweet, crushing embrace of the Street Sweeper's Daughter. Cramps and spasms ringing true through your body - each one trying so vainly to snap your body up and out of its forced position. Limbs growing numb with pins and needles. Gagged. Soiling yourself. Food and water is provided. However, it happens far less than ideal as your captor is busy with other things. Only popping in for short spells which are always accompanied by the removal of one piece of yourself.
The blood from which seemingly attracting a rat or two.
I must find time to finish my work, but the Highers seem intent on keeping me running around this little sector of the state I'm in. One of the Spooks I may touch back to in my next post, but the most... interesting mission of what I have done is most certainly my latest one. I'd become a fixture in a feud one town over, you see. My participation required me to put dearest Jerome on hold AGAIN, but I will admit... for an assignment such as this one... you cannot really have two many hands on deck, so to speak.
I was assigned along with two other proxies. One of which I've worked with before on different occasions. The other I have heard of. Smart men. Both namely Leader types. Secure in their trades. Like myself, they were picked from their usual stream of work in order to settle a problem that would be best fixed before the media caught scent of it. A mere splash of drama in this most wondrous time of the year to get someone like myself in the holiday spirit.
Because nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a mob.
The town was not an hour's drive from where I had the pathetic life that is Jerome tucked away. I took the liberty of acquiring a car for myself, as my own is not in the area and - as I've mentioned to one or two of you around the blogs... I don't use The Path. We didn't have a true "meet place" for the three of us to exchange the finer details of any manner of plan, so we simply each did as we do best. Slipped into the sector and minded our own until the time was right.
The place didn't seem all that active when I had arrived initially. Almost made me wonder if I was in the correct town. However... the tension in the air was unmistakable. Something had this entire town on edge. More so than it should be.
I soon left my car by the side of the road. Choosing my own two legs to assess the damage done. As I walked down main street, I could see a number of pale faces peering out from darkened windows as I passed by. Silent. Yielding. Yet ever watching. Like souls caught in the net of purgatory. They knew what I was. They didn't want to become any more involved in the growing conflict than they had to be.
To contrast the stillness around me, I could hear the distant humming of many risen voices crowded over top of each other sounding across town. Reaching my ears like the sound of water across rapids. As I wandered further into the town, the racket grew steadily louder and louder until its drumming could nearly be felt in my chest. The mob of people were overflowing the streets. Many of which carrying a weapon of one for or another. All shouting similar things.
"Our families aren't animals for you to send to slaughter!"
"It took my daughter! YOU gave It my daughter, you son of a bitch!"
"We made a deal with Devils!"
"How can you call this LIFE?! We're prisoners in our own homes!"
"You've damned us all, you bastards!"
"How DARE you bring this upon us!"
All directed to a second grouping of figures. Armed with weapons of their own. About equal to the opposing group. Shouting straight back.
"Are you MAD?! You will kill us all, you fools!"
"Don't you get this is the only way?!"
"Any life is better than death!"
"Sacrifice the few to save the many!"
"We do what we must do! You think there is any other choice?!"
"There is no turning back, you morons!"
Aren't they fun?
Then the final grain of rice tipped the scale. A molotov cocktail was thrown by the rioters. Crashing through the window of a house. Fire roaring to life inside the dark building. That was the last excuse the mob needed for a full-scale street fight to break out in all its glory. One half of a town pitted against the other half. Neighbor against Neighbor. Friend against Friend. Sibling against Sibling.
I gave myself a moment to smile from the shadows. Admiring the destructive force that is Fear. The very key stone of our Father's work. These people were thinking far too short-term. But that didn't matter.
I had a job to do.
I lifted my gun... and I heard three shots break the air across from where I stood. All hitting the ground at the mob's feet. A few screams of surprise cut the air next, the fighting crowd slowing in its scuffle to crane their necks upwards to the silhouette of a man on a nearby roof. Cowboy hat on his head.
The man shouted down to the crowd below him. Questioning the manners of "startin' the dance" before the "guests of honor" even arrive. As the fire across the street grew, the brown duster he was wearing became more visible. At that point, I had no doubt he was also wearing every other Western accessory that goes with the look. Right down to the buckle.
After the initial shock, the crowd seemed to grow back some nerve. Comments starting in a mumble before growing in confidence that nothing had changed. Turning to shouts soon enough. It was, after all, just one Proxy. One Proxy. And they were a crowd. One figure even proclaimed my... elevated brother to be "possessed by the Devil" and whipped up a handgun from his side.
I took the shot myself before my entrance could be stolen for a second time. Passing a bullet through the man's wrist. The crowd absolutely scattered backwards as the blood gushed out and a scream tore through the air so picture perfectly. His good hand gripping around his lame one. Screaming in pain. Screaming for help.
All his company were too busy staring my way from where I had come walking so casually out of the shadows of a building. Hood up as usual. Gauntlet ready for blood. Gun held in my opposite hand. Smiling as I approached. "I must say, this is quite the party you have going. I'm so pleased to have received the invite in time!"
Diamondback jumped down to the street from the roof. The jingle of spurs unmistakable. I'd say he looked ridiculous, but I'm not exactly one to judge. The loyalists were quick to step forward to name themselves innocent of any crimes against "The Great Tall One." Hoping so desperately to escape the wrath of His soldiers.
Which, of course, only began another brawl. This one my brother and I became a part of. Mostly to maim instead of kill. Sweeping in and out through the mess of the crowd. Never staying with one target. Hit one. Turn. Hit one. Turn. Until I found in the mob who my instincts told me were the instigators. All three fighting with sharpened, decorative swords. All three with paint over their faces.
The loyalists fought with their neighbors.
Diamondback fought one of the ring leaders with lasso and hunting knife in hand.
I took the two others. A man and woman pair. Striking at me with combos that they had obviously practiced long and hard to get right. Using the length of their weapons to keep me at bay whilst searching for the strike to put me down. However... I don't believe they'd ever fought anyone who's weapon also doubled as a shield. With my knife in my right hand, I blocked their swings with the arm of my Gauntlet. Grabbing their blades in my bladed fingers when possible to work their positions to my own advantage.
I listened to the whispers at the edge of my hearing. I learned the male was expendable. So I made certain that when I grabbed her blade, I swung it around and pierced it through him. Even if it did earn me a gash along my side, the look of her face as she felt her own weapon sink straight through her friend and partner made it well worth it. I let him drop as he coughed up blood. The body hitting the pavement with a limp THUD as the female desperately told him to "look at [her]" as she held his face in her hands. Tears streaming. Screaming "no" over and over again. As if her will meant more than His.
I turned as I noticed the area had become more quiet. Only to smile at spotting a figure I knew well.
Requiem had decided to arrive. Standing before the stilled crowd of people like a blessing of our Father himself. Attired in his typical black cassock with the clerical collar in place. Black fascia around the waist. Silver chain around his neck supporting a rather fancy operator symbol medallion. I can just imagine how he must have chose his entrance into the fiasco. A ripple of dimensions amongst the chaos of the fight. Stepping through The Path to order the Will of our Father done as good as any preacher past, present, or future. Having mastered an art that makes him a force best not reckoned with on the best of days. A manipulation technique capable of freezing a figure in their tracks. All by use of his own aura's influence in an area. The similarities his gift has to what our Father is capable of has not eluded him.
"You mongrels have forgotten your place in His Order." I heard Requiem inform. One hand risen out before him, the other holding the chain around his neck to let the medallion dangle off the edge of his fingers. He then turned to myself and Diamondback. "Both of you. Bring the False Prophets before these Heathens. Let them witness the Devils they have allowed to mislead their Faith in our Lord."
The Proxy to my right scowled. One western boot planted on the male he had fought. Who was now hog-tied. "Wanna try that one again, preachy? I don't take no orders from no choir boy, ya scum-sucking sack o' horse shit." The... accent was priceless. But I said not a word of it.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Easy now, ladies. Let's keep the family bickering behind scenes, shall we?" I then instructed Requiem to perhaps add in a "pretty please with a cherry on top" to smooth Diamondback's hackles. Which, with a mutter, he did do.
I pried the weeping woman off the corpse we had slain together, whilst Diamondback dragged his catch over as well. Kicking the male in the stomach when he began to fuss too much. I put the woman down on her knees beside her partner. Myself standing with my gauntlet curved around her neck just enough to sting as she continued to cry silently. Paint running with the tears.
"Have you not been promised paradise by these Devils?" Requiem continued to the crowd, stepping over to the two subdued Runners. I could see in his eye, his hold on the crowd was weakening. He could only keep focused for so long before exhaustion would take him and control would be up to Diamondback and myself to regain. "Have they not whispered in your ears of sin and betrayal, good people? Have they not placed doubt and corruption into your hearts that were once so faithful to His Name? Take a look upon these creatures. And you will see Sin. You will see Death. And Pain. An eternity of suffering. Their words as sweet as everlasting honey... but it is a mere coating over the stench of evil. A fool's paradise. They are not but DEVILS. Trying to pull you from the flock." His voice turned so sweet. "Good people, Our Father is yours as well. Do you not see His blessing upon you? Everywhere else, the conflict is rising... but He does not wish this upon you. This town is unique. You are all unique. He knows this. That is why He wishes to save you."
I heard a hiss from the bound male. Cursing us all. Screaming about how children are not animals fit for slaughter. How "Slendershit" is tearing families apart. How He is using us all.
Diamondback silenced the little outburst by pressing a red-hot brand over his eye. The Operator Symbol. The metal having been prepared by the fire with utmost care.
Many of the crowd began to hesitantly agree with the Runner. Crying with the names of lost loved ones on their lips. Whispers of guilt. Of nightmares.
Requiem listened. He listened to the crowd that was beaten and bleeding, but still leery of continuing as they have been. I stood back, leaving the shepherd to tend to his flock. When they were done, he spoke of the Greater Good. That sometimes a price must be paid. That for the betterment of all, we cannot expect to receive without requiring to give as well. Going on to say that God has chosen us all for a reason. For a greater purpose. And that, for now, we must be strong. We must have Faith. And not allow ourselves to be swayed by the snake-tongues of the Sinners.
After all, listening had only turned them against each other. Against friends. Against family.
How could anyone claim to be of pure intent and do such a thing?
After some time during which Diamondback and I chatted a bit with each other, Requiem soon approached us and informed us that he would stay in town for a few weeks to make certain this didn't happen again. The people needed a "man of Faith to lead the flock" for now. His use of The Path would make keeping an eye on things both here and at his own church rather simple. We also decided that Diamondback was to escort the two wannabe Heroes on their way with a lesson they will not soon forget. And I was to handle any damage done and take the town Mayor to answer a few questions the Highers have regarding his incompetence.
I happened to mentioned Jerome to Requiem. At which point the priest mentioned that a... certain Item I had requested a long time ago had been completed and had been sitting in the basement of his church the last few days. He suggested I bring the young man over to appreciate it.
This. Is going to be worth waiting for.
Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone.
And remember: keep smiling!