The buzz of static electricity filled the small dark room. A soft glow began to fill in shadows in the darkest corners of the cave. The clicking patter of small creatures who dwelt in the shadowy crevices and hidden cracks as they scurried for the safety of darkness intensified briefly. Then all grew still once again. But it was only the calm before the storm.
A loud crack shot out as a blueish-white bolt of electricity burst from the edge of the round opening overhead and connected with the square stone pillar that rose up from the ground. Six more bolts of electricity snapped out of various sides of the portal and connected with the stone. Then seemed to stiffen and solidify for a few brief instances as the form of a young man began to take shape within the light bluish-white mist that surrounded the stone under the pillar.
Ryuu breathed slowly and deeply as he waited for the transmission to complete. His head buzzed as millions of volts of electricity raced up and down his spine and throughout his body to rearrange his atoms. It was a strange feeling for sure, but it wasn’t his first jump. He knew it would pass just as quickly as it had started.
The ending was the easy part as his body came back together. He didn’t enjoy the start of the jump. Ryuu felt uncomfortable as the bolts of electricity began. Ripping the atoms that formed him apart and transferring them to the other end of the portal. Those were brief scary moments as he wondered if he would end up back in one piece on the other side. But it was almost over now.
Ryuu was careful not to open his eyes until the bolts of lighting stopped. But he wiggled his fingers and toes slightly. Careful to remain in the same position he had when he began the jump. Everything seemed to feel normal. When the last bolt of electricity disconnected from his body,
Ryuu opened his eyes slowly and waited for them to adjust to the darkness.
He focused on the red glow of the nanobots that throbbed softly just under his skin around his wrist. They communicated with other nanobots in his system who were analyzing if everything was ok. Upload successful. Transfer 100% Complete. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Ryuu rose slowly to his feet. He raised his arms out to the side in a long slow stretch. Twisted his head from side to side to work out the kinks. He took a deep breath and pushed out his chest. He enjoyed these trips, but it was always good to come home.
The young man pushed himself up and down on the tips of his toes several times. Then Ryuu raised each knee a couple of times and kicked his legs out to warm up and get his blood circulating again. Ryuu raised his arms up over his head in a classic crane kick move as he spun his body around like a ballerina with his raised right leg pointed out. His body seemed to be functioning perfectly and Ryuu felt great.
He shook his arms and raised them in front of him like a boxer. Then he relaxed and looked around. His surroundings looked familiar, however, things were eerily silent. He peered into the shadowy darkness, but there was no one to greet him.
Ryuu glanced up stars shining brightly through the portal overhead. Something seemed off. Stars were different than they normally look from home. Stargazing had been one of his favorite past times growing up. And every time he jumped to a new portal in a different location, it would always take time to study the constellations overhead.
“Shirou!” He called out. “Hello. Is anyone here?” Ryuu didn’t like this. Not having anyone from his team to meet him. At the very least his handler should have been there to debrief him. Or Naomi the assistant who helped get him through the portals and back. He glanced back up at the stars overhead. This definitely wasn’t home.
Suddenly, he remembered that it was Shigatsu Baka. “Haha! Very funny, everybody.” Ryuu yelled out with a slap to his knee. “Today is the first day of April. You almost fooled me.” Shaking his finger in the direction they usually waited for him, Ryuu jumped off the stone pillar that he had been standing on.
But he didn’t feel the tug of gravity pulling him back down to the ground, and his feet didn’t touch the floor. Ryuu looked down in bewilderment. His body hovered there above the dark stones that lined the ground just inches below him.
Ryuu pointed his toe down toward the floor below him, and his toes brushed against a rock below. He kicked at it lightly. It felt solid enough, but he continued to hover there in the shadowy darkness.
He pulled his body down toward his feet in a half-crouch. Then from there managed to push his legs down toward the floor until his feet were on the ground. He took a few sluggish steps forward. Not that it was hard to walk because he didn’t feel any extra pressure or difficulty in walking. It simply felt like he was using more muscles than necessary to move in the direction he wanted to go.
The entrance to the cave was about ten feet away, so he decided to try to cover the distance in two quick leaps. Ryuu bent his knees and tensed his legs for the jump. With a quick push, he pulled his legs up and prepared to land.
But instead of coming down a few feet away as Ryuu had expected, he continued to float forward through the air about a meter off the ground. He pushed a leg down toward the ground but continued to move ahead.
The wall over the entrance loomed quickly ahead, and Ryuu had to throw his head back and bend over backward at the waist to keep from slamming against the sharp gray rocks that formed the walls around him as he continued to float down the tunnel feet first at a vertical angle.
He slowed to a stop and turned to look back at the distance he had covered. Almost 50 feet. Not a bad jump, he thought. The only issue was that he was just floating there.
Ryuu twisted and moved his body around until his feet touched the floor again. Fine, enough jumping for today. It was better just to walk around here. At least until he figured out how to move around this place.
He looked back down at the thin, red lines around his arm. Ryuu pulled up some numbers. Everything looked like it should. Except for one, small detail.
“Schmack!” Ryuu whispered to himself under his breath.
Everything was as it should, except for a few of the numbers at the very end. Someone on his team must have messed up. Or not. Maybe they had intended this to happen.
Latitude and longitude were correct. The time was correct. But he really didn’t know what those last few numbers meant. And his team had never changed them. Someone had speculated that they might indicate other dimensions around them in the same space and time.
If so, Ryuu had no idea where he was or how to contact his team to find a way back home.
Natalie faced the giant standing before her. A twinge of nervousness. She hadn’t expected Mael’s giant to be quite so big. Doash was almost four times taller than herself. It didn’t even have to do anything. It could just step on her like a cockroach or spider and crush her to smithereens. She turned on the chainsaw.
The giant growled in resonance with the sound of the churning motor. It followed suit almost as if keeping in tune with the sound it was hearing. She wondered what it would feel like to be run through with its giant horns
“Great, a musical monster!” she sighed.
The giant lumbered forward taking a step in her direction, close enough that she could see the large triangular tattoos burned into its massive, green forehead. At least it didn’t seem to move very quickly. It hesitated from coming forward but shuffled its feet slowly as if trying to decide what to do with her.
“Mael is dead,” she yelled up at it. “I killed him myself. I don’t want to hurt you. Just go back home where you belong and don’t ever come back to bother us again.”
The giant paused its shuffling and cocked its head to the side as if pondering her words. It looked over at the house it had just finished crushing before devouring the people who had come running out. It looked to the other houses beyond Natalie.
“Hungry!” it finally said. “Mael no give food. Eat.”
“Well, you can’t eat the people here. You have to go find food somewhere else. Go to a giant’s supermarket and buy giant food.”
“Hungry!” the giant growled again and took a step over her to move on to the other houses.
Natalie raced forward toward his left foot that was still planted on the ground. She drove the spinning blade across the flesh on his shins. The blade went in deep. Flesh, blood, and even a bit of bone flew in all directions.
The giant roared and swatted at her, but she had already moved on past it and circled around to the other side. She drove the chainsaw across the flesh above his ankle. Trying to go deep enough to cut through his Achilles tendon. Or at least where she imagined the Achilles tendon might be. She wasn’t a hundred percent sure. It’s not like she had ever fought a giant before. But Natalie was hoping to cut through the tendons that supported its weight so it couldn’t continue to move around and eat people.
The giant screamed and jumped forward before she cut through the tendon though.
“Pain! Hurt! Stop!” it screamed angrily at her as it leaned down toward her.
Natalie backed away and wiped bits of spittle that had rained down on her while it was screaming at her in rage. It was disgusting. Natalie gagged and turned her to the side for a second.
When she turned back, the giant’s left foot was over her head and coming quickly in Natalie’s direction. She leaped out of the way at the last second. Just far enough that the giant foot stomp just missed her. If she hadn’t turned to look or moved any slower, she would have been flattened like a pancake.
Natalie scrambled to her feet as the giant reached down for her. His right fist came down from the direction she was running in. She ducked and attempted to dodge, but was too slow. Its huge fingers were wrapping around her. Natalie jumped to climb over them and got high enough up that its fingers were only wrapped around her waist. Her arms were still free.
She smacked him with the chainsaw, but it had turned off in her fall and didn’t phase the giant at all. Natalie flipped the switch, but the chainsaw choked. So, she groaned and flipped the choke valve on. The angry woman kicked her legs, trying to get free while she attempted to turn the chainsaw back on.
It turned on after her third try. She pulled back on the throttle as hard as she could and drove the spinning chain down across the giant’s fingers. His index finger came clean off as the chain sliced through it and hit his middle finger.
The giant shrieked and let her go immediately. His opening fingers snapped the chainsaw out of her hands a good distance away. He shook her down to the ground hard. It knocked the breath out of her, but she managed to roll the way she had learned in gymnastics class as a child to minimize the damage.
She lay on the ground with the wind knocked out of her, moaning softly until she could roll back onto her feet. Natalie limped over to her fallen weapon of choice. The chain had come off, and she thought it had broken. But fortunately, she was able to slip the chain back into place while backing away from the giant and keeping an eye on it.
The giant wasn’t paying attention to her at the moment though. He was holding his hand and moaning over his chopped-off finger. As soon as he heard the chainsaw start back up though, the giant turned his full attention on her and roared in her direction. The giant threw its finger at her, and it came limping back in her direction with its usual lumbering gait.
But this time, Natalie knew what to do. She dodged the flying finger and danced around in front of him until he had his right foot firmly planted in front of her. Natalie spun around him and dug the chainsaw just above his ankle once again. Angling the blade of the chainsaw until it met with her previous cut. Then pressed in the blade on through until it sliced clean through the tendon that supported the giant’s full weight.
The giant toppled over onto its back and hit the ground hard. Stunned from hitting the back of its head hard. It gave Natalie enough time to race up onto its chest a jab the spinning chainsaw blade into several major arteries on its neck and then its wrists.
Green giant blood spewed everywhere as the giant writhed and twisted before expiring in the town square. The townspeople came out and cheered for Natalie who stood exhausted to the side. Several people brought her towels to clean up with before leading her to the mayor’s house for a giant victory celebration.
“You better not come any closer!” Marcel shouted. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. If you come any closer, I’ll kill you. You’ll never get close enough to use that stupid chainsaw.”
Marcel felt rather silly for having yelled that same line again for the fourth or fifth time tonight. But unlike the previous times, he had always had a path of escape through the flames. Only this time he was completely surrounded by the fire. The only way out was past Natalie.
He nervously took a step back and stepped on a small branch that cracked loudly under his weight. The sound startled him and he jumped forward again.
“Listen, Natalie. I know you liked Mirek, but I was ordered to do what I did. It’s not my call to make. I would have been the one to die if I had disobeyed. You know how it is. You can’t blame me for what happened.”
The young woman said nothing. The fire roared loudly around him. The crackling flames and snapping in the underbrush unnerved him. He looked to the sides for a break in the surrounding inferno for a way to escape. Marcel licked his dry lips and took a deep breath. The heat forced him to cough.
The slobby, old man took another step back. Away from the girl who stood silently on the other side of the ring of fire that surrounded them. The heat burned into his back through his thin, red cotton shirt. Forcing him to take a step forward. He untucked his shirt and pulled it away from his back.
His pants were thicker and protected him better against the heat. He pulled them higher up around his large belly to protect more of his back. They slid back down to their usual spot. So, he pulled them up again and held them in place. Leaning forward slightly to keep the heat from blistering through his skin.
An internal heat welled up inside of him. Anger and rage at being humiliated by this bratty, little lady. She couldn’t treat him like this. Shouldn’t treat him like this. He wouldn’t tolerate it.
The fury boiling up within Marcel gave him a sense of newfound bravery. He took another step forward. Briefly enjoying a sense of relief at stepping away from the fire.
Marcel raised his arm toward Natalie and pointed a chubby finger in her direction. “That is enough there, young lady! I hereby command that you put that chainsaw down and go on home. You’re angry and need to take some time to cool your head. We can discuss this at a later time and I will convince Mael to forgive you for your insolence and insubordination.”
A brief smirk twitched at the corners of her mouth before the hatred and rage flickering in her eyes along with the flames brought the scowl back. Marcel could see the resolve. It was hard to believe that this was the same girl that had joined the group only 3 months ago. Marcel hadn’t expected her to last a week.
Now, she had hunted him down. Trapped him. And was closing on him. After killing everyone who had stood in her way.
Marcel knew there was no escape. He was trapped in this ring of fire that was slowly closing in on him. He felt the heat of the flames inching closer. Crackling loudly in his ears. Smoke burning his eyes.
He fell to his knees to beg for his life. The tears that began to run down his cheeks weren’t from the smoke and flames. It was fear for his life. All that he had fought for was now coming to an end. And he was so close to achieving everything that he ever wanted.
The blubbering man continued to plead for his life as he watched Natalie’s slow, measured steps coming in his direction. The low growl of the throttled chainsaw growing louder as she moved toward him. Scenes from his life flashed before his eyes. Marcel fell back on his elbows as he tried to move away from the edge of the chainsaw.
The grown man screamed like a little girl. He kicked at Natalie’s feet. Moaning as the spinning chain came toward him. He flipped over onto his belly and covered his head with his arms even though he knew it wouldn’t do any good.
He listened but the sound didn’t get any closer or grow any louder. Marcel wondered if he had already been killed, but his mind just hadn’t realized it yet. He held his breath for a second before opening one of his eyes and looking around. The grumpy, old man turned his head till he could see Natalie.
“Get up you big crybaby,” she growled. “Don’t think you’re getting off that easily. You’re gonna take me to Mael.”
Marcel’s heart skipped a beat and he stopped breathing for a split second.
“I’d rather you killed me now,” he sobbed. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. Besides, you’ll never be able to get to him.”
He saw the glint of fierce resolve flash in her eyes once again. “That’s exactly what you said about me getting to you, and look where we are now. I’ll find that monster and kill him myself with my bare hands if I have to. And you’re going to take me to him.”