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Friday, December 31, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two

Day 152: 31 Dec 2010

They think they've escaped, but we are on to them. One of the men I turned to be a soldier knows things. He knows of a disused airbase 300 kilometers from here, and that must be where they are headed.

It's interesting, having access. So many minds, most of them tired and boring. But there are a few. . .

The one I spoke of earlier was an agent in the CIA. He was in New Orleans on vacation when we turned him into one of us. Another made bombs for the Russian Mob in New York City. Skills. We will use them, and use them well.

I have sent a detachment of men, two hundred strong, in several vehicles to the airstrip. They will wait a safe distance out and cut off Travis and his friends as they head back towards town.

And then, we will dominate. We will break this world and remake it in the way it should have always been -- under the God of the Seas.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fifty-One

Day 151: 30 Dec 2010

I don't think we ever actually stopped moving on the runway -- we landed, slowed down, sped up, took off. We managed to get airborne again before any of Jared's soldiers got to us, but only just-- hit one in the head with the landing gear. He tumbled along the runway towards his friends, but got back up instantly, apparently unhurt.

"All right, fuckers," Black said. "Let's see how you dig these."

He climbed into one of the AC-130's stations and brought up an image of the runway on the small TV. There was a crosshair in the center of the screen.

"How many rounds did you guys make?" he asked me.

"About five thousand," Cassie answered before I could.

"All right. I'll try to be conservative," Black said. On the screen, we saw bullets flying. I knew they were 25mm minigun rounds with obsidian tips -- I'd handmade most of them. Jared's soldiers started to fall instantly. The bullets were shredding them easily, and Black started to chuckle under his breath.

"Captain! We're taking. . . not fire, but. . . You'd better get up here," the pilot yelled from up front.

"Shit. Travis, keep on this," Black said, waving to his station.

"Uh. . . how?"

"Ever played video games?"

"Yeah."

"You'll figure it out."

And I did. It really wasn't that hard. As I settled into his seat and got a look at the screen, though, I could see what the pilot had been concerned about. I was, too. Down on the tarmac below, Jared's men had started throwing things at the plane. Luggage carts, trams, huge chunks of runway concrete. Some of them were getting pretty close.

"We're going to have to go higher and come back in the M-ATV," Black said as he came back. "This thing crashes, and we won't survive."

I nodded.

"Where's the nearest place we can set down?"

"About three hundred kliks. It'll be a hell of a drive back," Black said, sighing as we climbed away from Reykjavik.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fifty

Day 150: 29 Dec 2010

Got to Reykjavik late tonight. Even from the air, we could see that a nuclear bomb might as well have hit it. The buildings were in shambles as far as we could see, and the streets were full of bodies. Fires burned out of control everywhere.

But that, as scary as it was, wasn't the freaky part. The bit that unnerved me most of all was the stillness. Nothing moved. Nothing breathed. If it wasn't for the fires, Black, Travis, and I could have easily been looking at a painting of destruction.

"Once we're down, we'll offload the M-ATV," Black shouted over the C-130's turboprop noise. "From there, well. . .we'll see what shakes."

The wheels had barely hit the ground before we saw them, on foot, rushing the airport. There were *thousands* of them.

"Fuck! Get us back in the air, now!" Black yelled.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Nine

Day 149: 28 Dec 2010

We were finishing off the weapons when Cassie's phone rang. She showed me the caller ID -- Jason Black.

"Hey, Jason. We're almost done. We followed your specifications exactly," Cassie said.

She listened briefly, and her face fell. After a few more seconds, she nodded slowly and hung up.

"Jared and his people are attacking Reykjavik," she said. "Everyone. Police, military, civilians. We have to get out there. Jason's on the way with a plane."

It was happening. They were taking over. I started throwing weapons into bags almost immediately.

"How long will it take us to get there?" I asked as I worked.

"Too long," Cassie said, shaking her head sadly. "All we can do is hope to stop them before they move on to another city."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Eight

Day 148: 27 Dec 2010

I don't like to question our father's will, but his stubborn insistence on dealing with Cassie and her god -- before reclaiming this world, no less -- doesn't seem at all wise. The last time we faced his people, my soldiers were wiped out. We have more soldiers now, but they'll be harder to transport en masse.

I had a talk with him after he was done with the weapons. I suggested that rather than move the whole army South, we bring the God of the Skies to us, at the same time beginning our takeover. He agreed.

So now we're headed for the nearest population center: Reykjavik.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Seven

Day 147: 26 Dec 2010

The God of the Seas has moved to the colder water now. With enough soldiers spawned, he's turned to weapons. The weapons that he makes are made of coral, and can easily kill the children of the God of the Skies and the God of the Land.

This is how it goes with gods. The weapons are formed from their own bodies, as with the obsidian in the God of the Skies' wings. Production is hard on them, moreso than the production of their soldiers, so they must move to remote locations to avoid attack. The God of the Skies prefers the air over what is now South America, and our father prefers the cold waters of the Arctic seas.

By late tomorrow, we will have enough weapons to finally eliminate Cassie and her god.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Six

Day 146: 25 Dec 2010

So, here's how today was supposed to happen.

I was to go down into the Gulf, carrying the new weapons. If Jared was on the land, I was going to fight him there and try to jam him with the needle. If not, I'd deal with him underwater. Then, I'd go down as deep as I could, to where the God of The Seas was no doubt breeding more soldiers. That's where he would die.

Except it didn't go down that way at all, because neither Jared nor the God of the Seas was in the Gulf, not anywhere close. They'd vanished, and I have no idea where they went.

I was supposed to stop them here. What's going to happen now? How many people are going to die because I let them get loose?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Five

Day 145: 24 Dec 2010

Almost ready. The attack begins tomorrow. If it doesn't work, I'm going to have to kill my own brother. And you just know that's not going to make me popular at Christmas dinner next year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Four

Day 144: 23 Dec 2010

Got an email on my phone from Jason Black today. Apparently, when the God of the Land died, he died hard. Military instruments picked up a huge sea-quake right after he went down.

Travis is working on the weapon. The big weapon. He had a long talk with the God of the Skies, and he says we should be ready to move on the God of the Sea soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Three

Day 143: 22 Dec 2010

We now have 200 soldiers and 212 more slugs to be joined. I am shocked by how easy it is to find people here. The disenfranchised, the poor, the helpless -- they are everywhere in this city. But soon, I will give them purpose. And power.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-Two

Day 142: 21 Dec 2010

While Cassie and Travis have been fighting a war of attrition, our father has not been idle. Far from it. He has been using his time in the warm waters of the Gulf not simply to rest, but to build.

I came to land today with cargo. Four large bags of it, each bag carrying fifty children of the God of the Seas. They are all mature, and all ready to be joined.

By tomorrow morning, we will have an army of hundreds. And by the end of the week, more than a thousand.

It's a war of numbers. And there's no way that Cassie, Travis, and the God of the Skies can win that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty-One

Day 141: 20 Dec 2010

My men are all dead. We were in the hotel, sweeping through the empty rooms, when the impossible happened. The ceiling exploded in on us, and there in the middle of the cloud of plaster dust and years of loose dirt stood Travis. Alive.

He slaughtered my men as easily as if he were taking out the trash. He had one of the God of the Skies' blades. Our own weapons. . .

Useless. They were designed to use against the forces of the God of the Skies. They could not hurt the children of our father. Our own knives chipped and shattered against his skin as he tore through my soldiers, slicing them to chunks of bloody meat.

I don't know how I survived. I don't know how I escaped. But I need to go to my father. He will know what to do.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day One Hundred and Forty

Day 140: 19 Dec 2010

If Cassie was trying to hide her plans from us, she didn't do a very good job. She was quite easy to find. She even made the hotel reservations in her own name, at a broken-down motor lodge forty miles outside the city. Not the best plan.

I would have preferred to leave her for later, to concentrate on our father's plan to regain control of this world, but no. Our father ordered that she must be removed from the equation first -- she had been a thorn in his side for too long now, he said. We were to end her life and the life of the God of the Skies before proceeding. Father would wait in the warm waters of the Gulf.

We arrived at the Bayou Motor Lodge just before midnight, and as one of my soldiers tried the door to her room, we were under attack. There was an explosion, which didn't worry me until I saw the first three soldiers in the stack twitching and bleeding on the ground. In seconds, they bled out completely. Quite dead.

I realized what must have happened. The blades from the God of the Skies. She had broken them up and used them as shrapnel for an improvised explosive device, shredding my soldiers on point easily.

We were more careful now as we moved inside the hotel.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Nine

Day 139: 18 Dec 2010

They have taken one of our generals, but they will not stop us. We are regrouping, moving. Coming ashore.

But soon, we will end this. The God of the Skies is not the only one with ancient weapons.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Eight

Day 138: 17 Dec 2010

Travis here. And no, not the "We are Travis" Travis. Travis Sykes, 24 years old, and probably unemployed. I'm not dead.

Neither is the slug, but he might as well be. The needle went straight into his brain, or what functions as one. Normally wouldn't have worked, but Cassie was smart -- she made the needle out of a chip of the blades the God of the Skies gave her. It's one of the only things that can pierce the skin the slug grew over mine.

The full dosage would have killed him, of course. But he didn't get the full dosage. He got just enough to cause. . . well, the closest human analog would be a major stroke event. It cooked off the higher functions of his brain, but the lower functions are intact.

In a human, that'd basically mean brain death. But thanks to Sluggo, I'm not entirely human anymore. When his brain went all fried egg, mine took over the higher functions.

This means I still have all of the cool stuff available, but I'm in control. And I will be for the foreseeable future, I think. I don't think he's coming back from this one.

And thanks to his using my brain for storage, I know Jared's entire plan of attack. So, if you'll excuse us, Cassie and I have some traps to set.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Seven

Day 137: 16 Dec 2010

The sun hadn't come over the horizon yet, and wouldn't for probably a couple of hours. It was chilly and damp. The cold I don't mind, but the humidity sure does. Ever since the bug got into my system, it bothers me more than it ever used to. And standing by the river didn't help, either.

I checked the time on my cell phone -- it was 3:14 a.m. when I saw the first head. It broke the surface of the water slowly, silently, and looked around. As the body came out of the water, I saw it was Travis.

I moved very fast, but so did he. I managed to get the syringe jammed into his chest, but he knocked it away a millisecond later. I know I didn't get the full dosage, but I did hit the right spot dead on -- just below the sternum, right where the slug lived. The drug was the product of years of research, and though it was never tested, it worked quickly. And goddamn if it wasn't effective.

Travis reeled back on the edge of the river, almost falling back into the water, then falling forward bodily, like a rag doll. I'd seen someone fall that way only once, when I was in high school and worked at a restaurant. A guy had gone into an epileptic fit. He'd suddenly seized up and fallen through a table without throwing up his arms to shield himself. Travis looked just like that.

Other heads began to break the water as he fell. I pulled one of the swords from my back and hauled Travis' limp body to its feet.

"Stay the fuck back," I growled.

It didn't work. They started to climb out of the river, all 50 eyes locked right on me. They could sense that Travis was dead, that there was nothing I could do to him, I guess. But then, suddenly, they stopped moving.

Just as slowly as their heads had broken the surface, they all backed off and slid back under the still, black river. I waited. It felt like a long time, but it was probably only a couple of seconds. Then I turned around.

The God of the Skies was behind me. He hovered ten feet off the ground, motionless, his eyes half-open.

"Thanks," I said out loud.

You are welcome, he thought. Taking out one of their leaders has thrown them into disarray, but that won't buy us much time. We need to get him out of here.

"You mean --"

That is correct. He is not dead.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Six

Day 136: 15 Dec 2010

If Jason Black did his job correctly, we should only have to deal with Travis, Jared, and their soldiers. The God of the Land should be dead by now -- a worm drowned during a torrential rainstorm. Hopefully, he died in the sea as planned. That would mean he had no time to create soldiers of his own, and that the twenty-seven children of the God of the Sea are all we have to face.

And they shouldn't be too hard to handle, thanks to the blades the God of the Skies provided, plus the two syringes I got yesterday. With that huge airborne God at my side, I think I actually have a good shot at stopping them this time.

At least, I hope I do. I guess I'll find out before sunrise tomorrow, because that's when we're expecting them to arrive in old New Orleans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Five

Day 135: 14 Dec 2010

Spent most of my day trying to find an organic chemist in New Orleans. It was tougher than you might think.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Four

Day 134: 13 Dec 2010

Holy shit. Ho-lee shit. I can see why we needed this laptop.

The God of the Skies is off somewhere. I didn't bother to ask where he was headed. I'm in my hotel in New Orleans, going through the massive amount of data on this machine. And, after almost two straight days of looking, I found it.

I found the way to turn Travis and Jared back into normal humans.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Three

Day 133: 12 Dec 2010

Jason Black is a traitor.

Now we can see why he was so eager to get the boat for us. He had his plans. In the middle of our first sea crossing, he blew a hole in the ice raft with C4.

The explosion didn't injure any of us, of course. Not the God of the Land, not Travis, not my soldiers. But the explosion wasn't the problem -- the rapidly sinking ice raft was.

As I've mentioned before, the slugs were created to fight the Gods of the Land and Skies because our father could not leave the sea. The same is true for the God of the Land -- he cannot survive in the sea. There was nothing we could do as the raft cracked and broke. The whole thing came apart in a matter of seconds, and the God of the Land fell through the ice, swallowed up by the nurturing seas.

And Jason Black took off in the boat he'd provided. There was no time to chase after him now -- we had to meet with our father. As one, we swam South, towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Two

Day 132: 11 Dec 2010

Early yesterday morning, I made a run at one of the guards outside the Chinese Mafia complex in Vancouver. It was the same place Travis had been held, but in the intervening months, the damage had been fixed and the Triad had moved back in. The guard I ran at had an AK-47, and he used it. He emptied an entire clip into me, and I went to sleep.

I woke up early today. I was in a utility room, alone. That's where they chucked their dead bodies, I guess. The door wasn't locked -- why should it be? Dead people didn't often open doors.

I knew what I was looking for -- a computer full of all of the Syndicate's slug research. Kevin had put it together, and the Chinese had stolen it from Travis at some point. The God of the Skies said we needed that info.

I found the computer right where he said it would be -- under lock and key in an office at the end of the complex. I broke in. I took the computer. I went out the window. It was too easy, but it only worked because they thought I was dead. Silly Triads.

And now, we're off to New Orleans.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty-One

Day 131: 10 Dec 2010

The barge is underway, thanks to Jason Black, who found us an abandoned long-range vessel at Thule harbor. The God of The Land will soon be on the North American continent, where he can move quickly under his own power to the rendezvous. There, in New Orleans, he and our father will meet to plan their war. And there they shall both raise new armies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty

Day 130: 09 Dec 2010

We arrived in Vancouver this morning. OK, to be quite honest, we arrived near Vancouver this morning. The God of the Skies dropped me off in the mountains and I had to walk into town. Wouldn't do well for him to be seen at rush hour.

I knew where I was headed -- I'd been there before, months back, to try and break Travis out of the Chinese Mafia's stronghold. That. . . hadn't gone well. But the Chinese had something very important in that stronghold -- something we'd need to end the game. I only hoped it was still there.

But first things first -- I had to get myself killed to get brought inside. And that. . .

Well, something like that is best left for after dark.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Nine

Day 129: 08 Dec 2010

Something Travis knew from before we were joined actually came in handy. Shipping. Freight. All of that. The idea of a barge -- one small boat pushing a large skiff.

If the God of the Skies would not fulfill his obligations, we would. With the help of Jared and his men, we started to cut a sheet of ice, one large enough for the God of the Land to rest upon.

Now all we needed was a powerful boat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Eight

Day 128: 07 Dec 2010

So here's what I didn't know -- the God of the Skies can read thoughts, but not the thoughts of the living. Having been dead so long himself, he became highly attuned to the thought patterns of the departed -- their souls, essentially.

I'm not sure if the other gods can do the same, and neither is he. They're alive, after all, so it's not like he can read them. But we're heading to Vancouver because of something my long-dead buddy Kevin saw. Kevin, with no hands, still helping us out.

Even being dead doesn't slow that guy down.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Seven

Day 127: 06 Dec 2010

We reached the Andes today. I know because the God of the Skies told me. We swept low over a tall peak. He indicated I should fly down to the surface.

"You're not landing?" I said.

I do not land. Nor do I sleep. I am airborne. Always flying.

I leapt down, my feet hitting the rock seconds later. I could still hear him in my head.

Twenty paces right. A small opening to a large cave. This was once my temple, the place where your ancestors' ancestors came to pay tribute. Go inside.

I did. It was dark in the cave, but I could see well enough. His voice was still in my head as I went deeper into the cavern.

Once, the people who lived here called me Urubutsin. Vulture King, hoarder of light. This was well after my last death, he thought. They had some facts incorrect. Still, they knew enough to use the weapons. Forty-five paces ahead, under a large square rock.

I saw the boulder. "Large" didn't quite do it justice -- it was taller than me and four times as wide. The Astrologer's Staff -- the same symbol from Travis' notebook -- was carved into its face.

You will not need to move it. Dig just below it, he thought. You'll find what we need there.

I dug for what seemed like a while until I found them -- two long, large knives. Swords, really. Their blades were black, and they looked heavy, but as I lifted them out, I was surprised. They felt lighter than air.

Take them. Place them on your back. Do not worry, they cannot cut you. Only the children of the Sea and the Land.

I took off my heavy coat. There was no need for it now that we were away from Thule. From its remnants, I made two straps, which I fastened to the blades. They felt like nothing against my spine, but I could feel it -- a sudden jolt, almost electric, surged through my body.

Come now. We need one more item.

"Where are we headed?" I asked as I walked out of the cave. I leaped up, landing on his back.

You would call it Vancouver.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Six

Day 126: 05 Dec 2010

I rejoined Jared and the rest of our people today. We must convene with our father about the God of the Sky. His treason cannot go unpunished, and our father is the only one who knows how to kill him.

We walked into the freezing sea. Our father was close. . . all we had to do was wait for him to appear.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Five

Day 125: 04 Dec 2010

We were flying South -- far south -- when the God of the Skies let me know the God of the Land had risen.

"Um, isn't that a bad thing? Wasn't I supposed to stop that?"

I didn't need to speak out loud -- I knew he could hear my thoughts. Still, it felt odd having a conversation completely in my head. I felt better talking.

It is no matter, he thought to me. His rise was inevitable. Besides, he will be stuck on that island without me to carry him. We have bigger problems on our hands.

"Like what?" I asked.

I got no answer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Four

Day 124: 03 Dec 2010

We chanted through the sparse daylight hours, deep into the night. Our words were different than those before. The words to raise the God of the Sky had been quiet, soft, almost whispers. That was his language. The God of the Land -- guttural. Harsh. Deep. It hurt our human throats, but we continued.

Late in the night -- I do not know how late -- we heard the rumbling. The ice under our feet started to splinter and crack. My men kept chanting, ignoring the earthquake-level shaking all around us. As the first segments broke the ice, we stopped chanting and backed up as quickly as we could. The God of the Land broke through. He raised up to his full height, blocking out the moon with his massive bulk.

His roar shook the ground more than his rebirth had.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Three

Day 123: 02 Dec 2010

Travis and his men had left a hole at least thirty feet deep and more than a hundred feet across in the ice. They'd done most of the work for us -- the God of the Land would be easy to raise now.

Thule was crawling with military people. They'd come to find out what happened, to clean up the mess. Unlike Travis and his people, we left them alone and went around. No need to raise further alarm. The slug Travis hosts is rash, young. He knows nothing of stealth or subtlety. Fortunately, we do.

The forty-mile walk inland, plus the ten-mile detour around Thule, took us most of the day. It was near midnight when we arrived. I set my men to work clearing off the last few feet of ice. By early morning, I could see the first segments of the God of the Land. We were ready to begin.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-Two

Day 122: 01 Dec 2010

Four days ago, we heard from Travis. He indicated that there were problems at Thule, and that we should come. We left from Central Texas and crossed the border into Canada two days ago. Travis told us the way he had taken through the Passage. We are on foot now, but should be at Thule by early tomorrow morning.

Last night, we were close enough to sense the problem. His soldiers were wiped out, all at once. We plan to take over where they left off -- the God of the Land will rise tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty-One

Day 121: 30 Nov 2010

I managed to avoid them for most of the day today. They got close a couple of times, but I'm pretty small. I can hide pretty easily.

Unfortunately, I couldn't just play hide and seek all day. They were bound to find me eventually. And they did, late in the night when the temperature was at its lowest.

I was wedged under a sheet of ice, watching them pass by. They'd moved outward from their dig site in a grid pattern for the last couple days, and we were probably 8 or 9 miles away from it. I'd hidden under this ice floe twice before, and never had a problem -- but this time, I let a breath out at the wrong time, I guess. They saw the steam and dragged me out.

When I'd seen them pass by earlier, they were moving in teams of five, but not anymore. Now it was all of them, Travis and Black included. I managed to get free of the two slug-soldiers who'd grabbed me by the arms. I ran, but I didn't get far before they closed in around me. I jumped, flying over their heads -- but one of them caught my ankle. I slammed hard into the ice, cracking it with my skull.

Still, I managed to get to my feet and get my hands up, ready to fight. What I saw was quite odd -- all of them, all 24 men, stood frozen. Then, Travis and Black, who were at the back of the group, ran. But they didn't run towards me -- they hightailed it away like something was chasing them.

It didn't make any kind of sense. They had me dead to rights, and they should have ripped me into pieces, but they didn't. They just stood there, frozen, staring.

I hit one of them in the face, and he didn't react, didn't even flinch. That's when I realized they weren't afraid of me at all. It was something else.

I turned my head around as far as it would go, trying to keep an eye on the 22 soldiers in case they moved. What I saw almost made me forget about them entirely, and definitely made me turn all the way around and stare, dumbstruck, frozen. Just like the soldiers who'd been ready to kill me.

There, hovering about twenty feet off the ground, was the God of the Skies. His six wings beat so fast they were a blur, but he made no noise at all. It was impressive, especially for a being as large as he. I estimated two Boeing 747s could land on his back with room to spare.

I felt no fear, only awe as he and I stared at each other. He resembled a gigantic, six-winged dragonfly with an opalescent blue body and clear, gossamer wings. His eyes, though, were odd. They weren't insectoid at all, not compound like a dragonfly's. They looked almost human.

Travis and Black had been smart to run. In a blur of motion, the God of the Skies shot over my head, diving low, nearly clipping the top of my skull as he swept down. He flew through the soldiers, body parts flying in all directions, blood raining from the sky as he climbed high into the night.

He slowly floated back down and hovered right in front of me. His eyes should have scared the fuck out of me, but they didn't. There was something warm in them, something almost friendly.

Come, his voice echoed in my mind. It was a familiar voice. He was the one who had led me to Thule. He'd managed to turn the volume down since then, though.

Come with me, he said. We have a lot of work to do, and I fear we have very little time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twenty

Day 120: 29 Nov 2010

Well, this hasn't gone well at all. I've gone from picking them off one by one to trying to hide from them. So far, I've managed to avoid detection, but I don't know how long that'll hold.

At least they've stopped digging for the moment. I guess they're more concerned with finding and killing me right now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day One Hundred and Nineteen

Day 119: 28 Nov 2010

I had two extra men, and the curiosity was nagging me. I sent them out with orders to stay low, be careful. They returned three hours later with a body.

It was a young black man, tall, muscular, and shot once through the right eye. My soldiers reported that when they found him five miles away, he was still warm. He hadn't been dead long.

Was this the man? The one responsible for the disappearance of my sentries? I couldn't very well ask him in his present condition, unfortunately. I ordered my men to put him aside and finish cutting through the ice. We were so close now.

The stranger approached near midnight. He was walking on foot, and dressed in layers of cold weather gear -- military spec. Like the clothes worb by the ones we'd eliminated back at Thule. He had an assault rifle, but he carried it high over his head, broadcasting his nonthreatening intentions. We let him approach.

"My name is Jason Black!" he yelled as he came closer. "I am a worshipper of the God of the Land! He has called me here!"

I was skeptical until he showed me the tattoo across his shoulder blades. He had the mark, and we welcomed him.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day One Hundred and Eighteen

Day 118: 27 Nov 2010

We -- well, to be honest, I've managed to take out three of Travis' people. He sent out one sentry first. He was easy to pick off, and I drove my fist through his chest and tore out his heart. I expected to feel bad about doing that. But I didn't. Not in the slightest.

Then, like a bad episode of Scooby Doo, Travis sent more sentries out to look for the first. I took those out, as well.

And now. . . well, we're just waiting to see if he sends out four this time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day One Hundred and Seventeen

Day 117: 26 Nov 2010

Another two sentries missing. When I reach out to their minds to determine their status, I get. . . nothing. I sent these two to look for the first one. Something in Travis' mind called it a "stupid horror movie move." Not sure what that is.

The death of my soldiers is highly a unlikely scenario. Nothing these humans have can kill them, short of massive explosions. I do mean massive, like on the scale of a small nuclear explosion. A block or two of C4 won't do it.

There are other possibilities. Entrapment is possible, though I should be able to get some reading from them in that event. Unconsciousness is also feasible. A particularly high fall could render one of them uncommunicative -- though probably not for as long as the first sentry's been gone. Truth be told, I have no real theory on what happened to them.

It's no matter. We can perform the ceremony with only twenty. We continue to break through the ice -- we're now more than 30 feet down, and I'm starting to sense something. A presence, powerful. It must be the God of the Land.

Won't be long now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day One Hundred and Sixteen

Day 116: 25 Nov 2010

The God of the Land has not been as easy to raise as we were lead to believe. For one, he's deep down. Much deeper than the researchers in the West Coast Syndicate thought. Working to free him-- to claw through the ice -- has been hard. My soldiers do not complain, but of course, they wouldn't.

We have no drilling tools or heavy machinery with us. We brought none. There was none at the base. We did not think we would need it -- the West Coast information said perhaps five feet of ice, no more. We passed five feet a day and a half ago. We're now three times that depth, and still no closer to the God of the Land, it seems.

And now, another problem. A sentry -- one of my men I sent ten miles out to scout the area and report back -- has not returned. He would not be late. That's something that is not possible for his slug. Nor is an accident that would leave him crippled. There is nothing in this environment that could incapacitate him.

This leaves me with only one other possibility for his absence. Someone has delayed him. And that. . . that is very bad news.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fifteen

Day 115: 24 Nov 2010

I wanted to board the boat as soon as it docked, but Captain Black held up one hand to stop me.

"Hold on. We've got no idea who or what is on that boat, and you're not armed. I'll go in first."

He raised his M4 into firing position. Slowly, he inched toward the boat, sighting down the barrel of the gun as he moved. When Ronan stepped out, Black nearly shot him.

"Whoa! Calm down! He's on our side!" I said.

Black gradually lowered his weapon, not taking his eyes off Ronan for a second. Ronan just gave Black a passing glance as he sighed heavily, steam from his lungs filling the air.

He didn't look very good. Not at all. Even bundled up in his parka and hood, I could see Ronan's face looked leaner. Gaunt, I guess. He looked beyond tired.

"Cassie," he said with a weak wave. "Any luck in Texas?"

I just shook my head. Ronan nodded inland at the destroyed base.

"Yeah, you can see I didn't do a bang-up job, either. Are they here?"

"If they're on base, we haven't seen 'em," Black said. "Mind telling me who you are?"

"I told you, Captain, he's on our side. Where will they have gone, Ronan?"

"Further inland. According to the work the West Coast Syndicate was doing, the place they're looking for is about forty miles east of the base."

"That jives with my Intel. Cassie, if you're willing to vouch for this guy, I'll have my chopper take us in."

"I am," I said.

"Chopper's a bad idea, man. They'll hear it coming miles off. We need a quieter ride."

"The base has a couple of Snow Cats. Assuming Travis and his people didn't destroy them, we can take one of those most of the way, then walk it in."

"That's better."

"And what are we supposed to do when we get there? Let them kill us as easy as they killed everyone on the base?" I asked.

Ronan just looked at me for a long moment. He shook his head slowly.

"You mean. . . you don't know?"

"Know what?" I said.

"Cassie, honey. . . you're strong enough to kill them with your bare hands. You're the only one who can," Ronan told me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fourteen

Day 114: 23 Nov 2010

We could see Thule was wrecked before we even landed. The fires had gone out, but the place looked like it had been bombed. It also looked quiet -- we didn't see anyone moving below as our Black Hawk touched down.

"Heat scans read nil," Vince's guy said. He'd introduced himself as Captain Jason Black, but I doubt that's his real name.

"Nothing?" I asked.

"Nada. And that's odd. In this kind of cold, we should be picking up something -- even if it's just a space heater in a building down there. But nope."

We were dressed in ECWG -- extreme cold weather gear. It was just me and Captain Black. The pilot stayed in the chopper, but not us. We started to walk through the dark, silent base.

"Dead body," Black warned, but I'd already seen it. I see well in the dark. It was a man, dressed in the same ECWG as we were, but he was missing his head.

"I expect we'll find a lot more of these," I said.

"Agree. So what do we do if we run up against one of the slug. . . things? We really need a name for them."

"Not a clue," I said. "And I've just been calling them slugs."

"I'll stick with 'hostiles' for the moment."

Black's radio suddenly burst to life.

"Captain, we have an unidentified vessel closing in, looks like it's heading for the dock."

"Copy that," Black said. "Come on. Let's see who's come out to meet us."

He raised the M4 from his chest strap and led the way to the dock.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirteen

Day 113: 22 Nov 2010

We knew the military expected us. Their machines would definitely alert them to our father's approach. After all, he is nearly three times the size of the Ohio-class submarine.

We were ready for attack as we stepped onto land. The Air Force did not disappoint. While not a combat base -- Thule is filled with scientists and aerospace engineers -- they put up a fight. Bullets started flying the second we approached the base, and kept coming at us as we rushed inside.

They put up a good fight. But it didn't last long. By midnight, the base was ours.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day One Hundred and Twelve

Day 112: 21 Nov 2010

Finally got a hold of Dane today. He's back home, resting up from two broken legs. I told him about Vince.

"Did he go down shooting?" Dane asked.

"He did."

"That's how he would have wanted it, then. So they've released the. . ."

"The God of the Skies. I think so. And I think it's been talking to me."

"Interesting. There's some history to support that. I know the sea god talked to his people."

"He said Thule. Any idea what that means?"

"You Google it yet?"

"No," I said. "Haven't been near a computer for a few days."

"Give me a second," Dane said. I heard him typing on a keyboard. "Here we go. Thule, or Thyïlea. It's referred to in medieval maps as a 'region to the far north.'"

"So, the North Pole? Like, Santa and shit?"

"Well, in a more modern sense, could refer to Thule in Greenland. A US Air Force Base. About 700 miles North of the Arctic Circle. Not the friendliest place in the world."

Something clicked in my head, and I knew that was it.

"That's the place," I said. "I need to get up there. Could be my last chance to stop this."

"Vincent had a guy. This is the guy who got him weapons, choppers. That kind of stuff. I've never met him, but Vincent left me a way to contact him in case something ever happened to him. I'll call."

"Do you even know who this guy is?"

"Nope. Not by name. Vince said he worked out of Area 51, but that's all I know."

"You think he'll help us?"

"He's Vince's boss. I'm sure he will. Get back to Vegas -- I'll have it sorted by the time you land."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day One Hundred and Eleven

Day 111: 20 Nov 2010

We ride on his back, all 25 of us. He could carry legions more. And soon, he will.

The crossing is quick. It is only the first of three -- the land is what slows us down. We must walk across it, stomp through the snow and ice on foot. There are no roads this far north, and the terrain is rough. We move faster than humans could, but walking over 100 miles takes time. Add the mountains and large glaciers, and it can take days.

Normal humans would complain, but my soldiers do not. No one speaks. We are silent as we move, quickly and carefully, every step planned by us, Jared. The steps transmit to the minds of our soldiers. They are a different kind of slug -- workers, not thinkers. They do as we say, no more, no less. Theoretically, they can speak. None of them has, though, not in the entire history of our kind.

They have no need of speech -- our communications are mental. Even now, as we walk, I know the status of each of them, know that they are all performing as expected despite the cold, the terrain. I communicate back to them, let them know the answer to the question on all of their minds.

We reach Thule in two days.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day One Hundred and Ten

Day 110: 19 Nov 2010

Not knowing what else to do, I hitched a ride from Marfa to Houston. From there. . . what? Back to Vegas? New Orleans? Try to find Ronan and his people?

I was sitting in a truck stop when it happened. My coffee had just arrived. Before I could take a sip, a voice boomed in my head -- so loud my nose started gushing blood instantly and I went temporarily blind. It said one word.

Thule.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day One Hundred and Nine

Day 109: 18 Nov 2010

Still traveling, though now more east than north. It's been dark for hours now, but it's rarely light here. We're approaching our first water crossing, but we won't need to swim. We could, but we'll have a faster ride. Much faster.

Around midnight, our father will meet us there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day One Hundred and Eight

Day 108: 17 Nov 2010

We travel North. When the vehicles froze up in the Northwest Territories, we had to continue on foot.

The cold does not bother us. In fact, we find it rather comfortable. Our soldiers, 24 of them, seem to agree with our sentiments. They, as we, plow through the ice with speed and persistence, not stopping to eat or sleep.

We face a water crossing in days. Water that was not there when the God of the Land was killed. Then, after two more such crossings, we reach his resting place. It did not have a name back then, but now. . . the human part of Jared knows the name somewhere in his mind.

Thule Air Base. Just to the east of that place is where the God of the Land rests. And that is where we shall awaken him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day One Hundred and Seven

Day 107: 16 Nov 2010

I woke up this morning surrounded by dried blood and spent ammunition. It felt like the worst hangover ever. My head was pounding and I felt sick to my stomach, but I knew I was alive and uninjured. It took a few minutes to get to my feet.

When I did, I found that Travis and his people were all gone. The spot around which they'd been chanting was now a huge crater.

"Well. . . fuck," was all I could think to say as I walked past the downed Pave Hawk towards the road.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day One Hundred and Six

Day 106: 15 Nov 2010

I woke up under a whole bunch of what used to be a Winnebago. I was injured at some point, but I'm not now. The insect in my system makes me tougher -- not as tough as Travis and Jared -- but it also heals whatever damage I take over time. I get the feeling I might have died, but the insect kept me alive.

Vince and his crew don't have insects in them. They're dead. Almost the first thing I saw when I woke was their bodies, and they didn't move for several minutes. No breath, no movement. Dead.

I heard a low humming outside the wreckage of the trailer. It was the screaming, shrieking voice of the slugs, almost whispering. A low, raspy, droning chant. Some part of me -- the insect, probably -- knew they had begun the ritual to raise the God of the Skies. I could still try to stop them.

As I pulled myself out of the ex-trailer, I saw one of Travis' . . . I don't know, soldiers? Pals? Whatever he was, he had one of the M249 SAWs from our cache. As soon as he saw me, he opened fire. He'd been guarding the wreck. About fifty bullets slammed into me before I blacked out -- again. I knew I was still alive, but I also knew I wasn't going anywhere.

Not anytime soon, anyway.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day One Hundred and Five

Day 105: 14 Nov 2010

It was dark when Vince woke me.

"How long have I been out?" I asked.

"Five hours. We've got incoming. Five vehicles moving in a line."

"So it's not our guy?"

"Or it is, and he's already turned his slugs into soldiers."

"I hadn't even thought of that. That's not good," I said, standing and stretching.

"No. No, it isn't. I'm waiting on confirmation. If it is them, we'll throw everything we have at 'em, but I don't know how effective it'll be."

Vince quickly put his hand to his ear. He listened for a second, then nodded.

"Copy. It's them. Travis is driving the lead vehicle," he told me, handing me an M249 SAW. "We'd better get ready. The trucks won't make it , but they'll probably continue on foot."

"How do you plan to stop the trucks?"

Vince toggled his radio.

"Vampire 1-1, go ahead and start your run."

Off in the distance, I heard gunfire. Lots of it. Then, soon after, explosions.

"The helicopter," I said.

Vince nodded. "Better get in position. Won't take them long now."

Vince, his three guys, and I aimed our weapons out the windows of the trailer, towards the road. We saw the chopper in the distance. It was coming towards us, floodlights switched on and bathing the road ahead of it in light. In its beam, we saw men running at us. They moved impossibly fast -- Travis and his guys. I didn't count, but I knew there were 25 of them.

"Wait for 'em," Vince whispered. "Wait. . . now! Light 'em up!"

I almost went deaf from the noise as all five of fired. We saw bullets arc through the night. They hit the men advancing, but didn't even slow them down. They kept coming at that impossible speed, heading right for us.

"Reload! Reload!" Vince yelled.

I reached for another belt, but the trailer suddenly bucked hard and pitched on its wheels. I felt the old Winnebago slam over on its side, and as I fell backwards, I must have hit my head -- everything suddenly went dark.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day One Hundred and Four

Day 104: 13 Nov 2010

The drive from Houston to just outside of Marfa would have been murder -- more than ten hours in the car. Thankfully, we didn't have to make the drive -- Vince's old military and black ops connections must have still been worth something. He had a helicopter meet us early in the morning at a small private airfield just outside Houston. It was a Pave Hawk, a monster.

"You're sure he said Marfa?" Vince shouted over the noise of the rotors as we flew.

"Yeah. That's where the Sky God is buried."

"Should be there in a couple of hours. We'll scout somewhere to set up near the burial site. Your guy shouldn't be along real soon. Not for at least a day if he's driving by car," Vince said.

And he was right. We found an abandoned trailer near the site. I knew we were near the burial site -- I could feel it. The God of the Skies,dead, but still radiating power. He was definitely here.

"Trailer's more exposed than I'd like, but it'll have to do," Vince said. "Get some sleep. You look like you've been up a week."

I had been. So I balled up my coat under my head and sacked out in a corner of the trailer. I was asleep in seconds.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day One Hundred and Three

Day 103: 12 Nov 2010

Ronan seemed to know everything -- the slugs, the insect, and the worms (the children of the God of Land). He also knew what the notebook in Travis' car meant -- that he and Jared meant to revive the other two gods and wage war on humans. He knew a lot, but when I asked how, he didn't answer.

"You need to get some people and some hardware together," he told me. "Guns. Lots of bullets. Won't kill the two guys with slugs in 'em, but it'll tear the unprotected slugs right up."

I knew who to call. Vince was still healing up, but he had people. And definitely guns.

"I'll take my own team and head North," he said. "You're West. Small town in West Texas -- believe you've been there before."

"And what then?" I asked.

"Take out as many of 'em as you can. They'll incubate in a day, this new batch. Travis and Jared are moving by car, so if we get planes, we can stop them."

So I did. I caught a plane to Houston, where Vince and three other guys were waiting. My flight got in just before midnight.

"Vince. You didn't have to come yourself," I said.

Vince just smiled as he and his men led me out of the airport.

"Come on, kiddo. We finally get to kill something. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day One Hundred and Two

Day 102: 11 Nov 2010

Today we returned to the land, walking unmet and unmolested onto the sand at Appalachicola. It was dark outside. We do not know if it was day or night, nor do we care.

We did not arrive alone, Jared and I. We carried 24 of our brethren each. These, unlike the slugs Jared and I received, are mature. Ready for bonding. No two-week adjustment period -- these bond in one day. They won't last as long as we will -- not even in suitable hosts -- but they don't need to. One year will be more than enough.

No one challenged us as Jared headed North and I headed West. We had a strike force to assemble.

Then, gods to raise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day One Hundred and One

Day 101: 10 Nov 2010

I waited for hours, and Ronan finally showed up about half past midnight. I was expecting a white guy. You know, an Irishman. The name Ronan, and all.

"You're Cassie?" the tall black guy said as he walked up.

"Uh, yeah. How --"

"How did I know your name? My grandma told me. She picks up on things. Without having to be told. Like the fact you're not human. Not entirely, anyway."

"You know?"

"A child of the god of the skies. Yeah, I know all about it. And I know about the slugs."

"Both of them?" I asked.

Ronan shook his head.

"Not both. All fifty. And they're coming to shore in about 36 hours. Come on. We've got a lot of work to do before then."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day One Hundred

Day 100: 09 Nov 2010

Was walking in Jackson Square this afternoon, past all of the street performers and random tourists. Oh, and the homeless people the tourists thought were street performers.

As I walked, I felt someone grab my left wrist. I turned, and saw it was a tiny old black lady at a folding table. She had Tarot cards set up in front of her.

"You. Sit down."

It wasn't a request.

"I started picking up something from you the moment you walked into the square," she told me, shuffling cards. "Don't even need the cards to see it."

"Oh, yeah?" I asked, shifting in my seat.

"Yeah. You're bringing something bad, girl. Something evil. You're bringing it to this city."

"What?" I coughed.

"What'd we ever do to you, anyway?" she growled.

"I'm sorry, I don't --"

"You need to meet with Ronan. Today. St. Louis Cemetary. Go now," she said, rising from the table slowly.

"I --"

"Go!" she screamed.

So I went. Don't know who Ronan is, or why I have to meet him, but that woman scared me. A lot. She looked like she wanted to beat the crap out of me, but she didn't intimidate me physically. Something else about her. . .

I don't know. But here I am, waiting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day Ninety-Nine

Day 99: 08 Nov 2010

Still nothing from the brothers Sykes. Truth be told, though, I'm too hammered to give a shit right now. Whoever came up with the idea of a 25-ounce daiquiri is an evil damned genius.

You know what? I didn't want to get involved. Not in any of this bullshit. I was happy last year, working in the shop and gambling a bit on the weekends. It was effing awesome. Then my dad's old Army buddy Vince shows up and lays out the whole scheme -- the slugs, the ancient gods, the West Coast Syndicate. Suddenly, I'm part of this little group that's trying to stop them from spreading.

And what has it brought me? Some nifty abilities. I can't bitch about those -- the ability to fly for short distances, increased strength, speed, and hearing. Those are pretty badass. And there's the money, too, which I'm keeping if Jared doesn't show up.

But then there's the bad side, outweighing the good. Sleepless nights. Voices in my head, not like Jared or Travis, not as controlling, but still creepy as fuck. Temperature sensitivity. This Louisiana humidity is killing me. And the heat isn't great, either.

Fuck it. Alcohol will make everything better, right?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day Ninety-Eight

Day 98: 07 Nov 2010

Fucking Jared. Dives into the water and vanishes without even a "see ya," leaving me standing on the dock. Just a little Chinese girl, stupidly hanging out between two abandoned cars in one of the most dangerous cities in America. Great.

I stuck around for an hour or two on that first night, but when it became painfully fucking obvious he wasn't coming back, I left. Took the Buick (it had the money in the trunk) and went and got myself a hotel on Bourbon Street. And waited. And waited.

Nothing. Neither Sykes brother has showed up, called, anything. I can't bring myself to leave, though, so. . .

Fuck it, I finally decided. Never been to New Orleans before, and my changes don't alter my appearance near as much as Travis or Jared's. So I'm playing tourist. They decide they want to show back up, fine. It'll take a bit of grovelling, but I'm with 'em.

Until then, I'm just gonna have fun. From what Jared says, world's probably gonna end soon anyway, so why not?

And no, you can't see any of my vacation photos. Oh, OK. Just one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day Ninety-Seven

Day 97: 06 Nov 2010


Contact.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day Ninety-Six

Day 96: 05 Nov 2010

Wait. Something's happening. Something. . .

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day Ninety-Five

Day 95: 04 Nov 2010

Scratching away. Clawing at the inside, trying to stop what's happening. To throw a big fucking wrench in it. So far, not much luck.

I thought that when Jared found us, he'd try to stop us. Not so. He just sat down and amplified the call. That must be what my slug and his talked about in Los Angeles. I assume, anyway. I have no real idea what that was all about.

My slug hasn't been knocking me out. Doubt he has the time or the focus for it -- he needs to concentrate on the task at hand. Besides, not much I can do -- I'm not in control of the body. All I can do is watch, try and take back some control of the mind. He's got that locked down, but he hasn't slept in days -- not even his micro-naps. I'm hoping that the slug is like people in that.

My only chance is that the lack of sleep will make him sloppy. I can hope he makes a mistake, and that I can gain some control. It doesn't have to be a lot -- just enough to break the call for a minute. I get the impression that the effort is cumulative. If I can interrupt them, they'll at least have to start over again.

So, the most I can hope to do is buy time, and keep buying it. Until. . . well, to tell you the truth, I don't know.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day Ninety-Four

Day 94: 03 Nov 2010

Searching. Calling.

We're stronger together. That's why Travis let us find them. Why they didn't hide. Together, we might have the power to wake our father from his death-sleep.

That's why he's laid sleeping for so terribly long. There's never been more than one slug-host pair walking the earth since our father drifted into his slumber so many millenia ago. No host could hold a slug long enough for another to be joined.

But with two pairs -- Travis and Jared -- it might be possible. And if we can raise him, he can raise the others.

And then. . . then it will be slaughter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day Ninety-Three

Day 93: 02 Nov 2010

Tracking someone underwater is easier than tracking on land. It's much quieter down here, for one thing. No noise to confuse my mind. It's simple for the slug to communicate with Travis down here -- even when Travis doesn't talk back.

He had almost two days head start on me, and that's about how long it took to find him. I covered a lot of distance in that time. The slug's modifications to my physiology meant I didn't need to surface for air, and the cold and pressure had no effect on me.

When I finally caught up with him, he was sitting in an open area on the ocean floor, legs crossed, eyes closed. He looked asleep. I knew he wasn't, though -- I could sense his slug working, reaching out with all of its mental powers. Searching, but not for me.

I sat down and joined him. I'm not sure if I made the decision or my slug did, but it hardly mattered. We sat there together. Time stopped passing -- the two of us, motionless, somewhere out past Florida. . . searching. Calling.

Waiting.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day Ninety-Two

Day 92: 01 Nov 2010

Underwater. It's cold, or you would find it cold. We are perfectly comfortable. The water fills our lungs. It's comforting, like a cool, tall drink after a long day out in the sun.

Much as we'd like to sink here and not move, we can't. We have a mission. Find Travis. But that's where it gets tricky.

When we went into the water, I knew why I had to find them. To stop them. Now that we're here, I'm not sure. We might want to stop them, or we might be here to help them succeed in their plans. I guess we won't know until we find them.

Incidentally, better get on that. Time's a wastin'.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Ninety-One

Day 91: 31 Oct 2010

Made it to the Port of New Orleans late tonight. Cassie found us a 1999 Buick Riviera in near-mint condition. Some senior citizens were looking to part with it for a mere $2,500. The thing is a whale, but it runs like new, so I can't complain.

When I stopped the Buick Land-Beast at the dock, it wasn't hard to find Travis' Escalade. Didn't even need Eric's fancy netbook. The black sport-utility was sitting, neatly parked, facing the Mississippi River. No one was inside.

Cassie broke in with little effort. No evidence of a long road trip in the car -- no food wrappers, soda bottles, maps, nothing. Of course, he didn't need any of that. He didn't need to eat or drink like normal people.

On the passenger seat, we found this:



Apart from the five pages of journal entries, this was the only other page with marking on it.



It's a message, one meant for me -- my slug, actually. The large symbol is the lituus -- the Astrologer's Staff. It's ancient. Older than your historians think, in fact. From the slug's time. More interesting than that are the symbols surrounding the staff. They're from an early human language.

The one at the top left is Body of Water -- the father of our slugs, the Water God. Top right is Earth, bottom left is the Rising Sun (for the God of The Skies). Bottom right -- that one means war. Plain and simple.

But then there's this. Two tiny symbols, drawn away from the staff, but almost more important.



The one on the left means white man, human. The one on the right means snake -- enemy.

It wouldn't make sense to you, of course. But to my slug, it's clear as day. It's a manifesto. A blueprint of things to come.

And humans are in a lot of trouble now. Travis and his slug believe as the slugs' father did -- that humans were parasites on this earth. Kept to a small population, they're merely annoying. Left to grow to your current -- I mean our current -- levels, they're an infestation.

It's something all the ancient gods would agree on. So Travis and his slug have decided to bring them back, one at a time.

I didn't have time to explain any of this to Cassie. The insect sharing her body -- child of the God of The Skies -- would explain it to her in time. I had to act. To try and stop this.

Just before midnight, as Cassie was searching the rest of Travis' SUV, I walked into the cold waters. I sank as low as I could. Then I headed out for the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day Ninety

Day 90: 30 Oct 2010

Stalled in Beaumont, Texas, east of Houston. Eric's intel has been good so far -- shows Travis has stopped. His GPS signal stopped moving late last night in New Orleans.

The Lexus is pretty much dead, according to Cassie. And she knows cars. Once something opens up in the morning, we'll try to track down a car we can buy in cash with as little paper trail as possible.

I know why Travis (or, more accurately, his slug) went to New Orleans. I also know why he made stops along the way -- a lot of them. Death Valley, Vegas, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and San Antonio. All West Coast Syndicate outposts. All with information to hide. Pieces of the puzzle, the puzzle that leads to his ultimate goal -- New Orleans.

For years, the Syndicate didn't go this far east. Their presence stopped in Arizona. But after they found -- or obtained, really -- my slug, they started to do research. To study. To figure out if they could make more of. . . me, I guess.

They broke the research up into unrelated pieces, spread it out. No one team knew the whole, the ultimate plan. Cells worked in secret, using major cities -- the ones I just mentioned -- as cover. Their research neared completion. Some had already finished, found their part of the answers. The parts would soon be combined into the whole.

My slug figured it out, so Travis' must have. And once he had all the pieces together. . . well, I can only assume it led him to the Port of New Orleans --that's where he stopped.

And, come morning, that's where we're going. Hopefully before he has a chance to do what I think he's going to do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day Eighty-Four

Day 84: 24 Oct 2010

One guard outside the boathouse. There used to be three, but those were non-murdery times.

I went in first. I didn't try to be stealthy about it -- I wanted him to see me. And he did.

"Stop!" he yelled, raising his weapon. A P90, I think. I'm not great with guns.

Cassie swept in behind him, moving blindingly fast and without a sound. Her feet didn't touch the ground. She barely hit him, and he crumpled to the dirt.

"This is where they keep five million in cash?" she said, shaking her head.

I understood her reaction. It was a crappy clapboard hut, basically. It was supposed to look that way, supposed to be avoided. I didn't answer her -- just took the steel-reinforced door right off his hinges and threw it to the ground.

The bags were there. All of them. Ten black "Las Vegas" duffel bags, each with $500,000 in cash. We only needed one.

"Any harm in taking more?" Cassie looked at me with a lopsided grin.

"Only as much as we can carry with us," I said without thinking.

Uh, yeah. I'm sure I mentioned this, but we're both really strong. We could carry them all, and we did.

* * *

Eric was right on time. He wasn't hard to find, either -- he was leaning on his Ford Econoline van, tattooed arms crossed over his chest.

"Howdy."

"Howdy yourself," Cassie said, nodding.

"You bring me something?"

I opened the Lexus' trunk, which was packed with bags. Cassie grabbed one and handed it to him.

"Right, then," Eric said after looking inside. "Your brother Travis is on the move. Don't know where, exactly, but I have the GPS tags on his car."

Eric handed us a netbook -- a dot on the screen was moving. It was headed away from Los Angeles.

"That thing's got a 4G wireless card. Keep it charged, and it should lead you right to him."

So now, Cassie and I are on the move again. We're headed east. That's all I know for the moment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day Eighty-Three

Day 83: 23 Oct 2010

Cassie still wasn't back by noon today. I'm not sure what I was up to before then, which isn't a good thing. That means the slug was probably puppeting me around most of the morning.

Around noon, though, I was just kind of hanging out. I was in one of the safehouses in Koreatown, an apartment building the syndicate used to house its people. And I was getting hungry.

As I was considering food, though, the front door opened. I expected Cassie -- she knew where to find me -- but it wasn't Cassie.

"Heard you've been looking for me," the young man said as he walked into the apartment and closed the door.

I had been. His name was Eric Drake, and he was one of the outside contractors the West Coast Syndicate used to get information on the Russians. He was a little older than me, and his arms were covered in tattoos. I'd met him once or twice before, but we hadn't talked much.

Eric took a seat on the couch and kicked one combat-booted foot up on the coffee table. He didn't seem afraid of me -- that's rare.

"I guess I have," I said. Some screech had crept into my voice, but he didn't seem flustered by it.

"One thing," he said. "Just in case you're thinking of getting violent, you should know my van downstairs is packed with a couple tons of trinitrotoulene. It's roughly equivalent to a mini nuclear bomb. I won't tell Homeland Security if you won't."

He knew his stuff, this Eric guy. I could walk away from a lot, but probably not several tons of TNT. That would turn this building into a crater, and we both knew it.

"You won't need that. I'm only looking for information. On the other one like me."

"Yeah, the other slug-thing. Your brother. He's gone off the chain, but I'm sure you know that," Eric said. "Has the Syndicate people running scared. But he doesn't know me."

"Do you have any information that could help me locate him?"

"That depends on what you've got to offer me for it," he said.

I didn't have much in the way of money, but I know where the Syndicate keeps a rather large stock of cash, in case of emergency. I wasn't sure it would still be there; Travis killing them all wholesale was about as "in case of emergency" as situations could get.

"Half a million," I said.

"Fine. You obviously wouldn't have it here. Meet me tomorrow afternoon. The Beverly Center."

"I can do that."

"I'll be bringing my friend Jim The Big-Ass Bomb in case you figure it'll just be cheaper to beat it out of me."

"Fair enough."

So now, as soon as Cassie gets back, we have to go steal a bunch of cash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day Eighty-Two

Day 82: 22 Oct 2010

No luck finding anyone yet. Cassie's still out -- said it might take her another day or so. So, waiting. Again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day Eighty-One

Day 81: 21 Oct 2010

No idea what to do, and still confused about just what the hell happened yesterday. I've been rerunning it. Travis and I fought, of course. But it seems it was really easy for the slug to get him to stop kicking my ass. Just took a word.

So do I run, or try to find him? That was the question I was grappling with most of today. Wasn't easy, but I came to a decision. If I run, he probably goes back to killing on a massive scale. I don't want that on my head. My slug's gone quiet again, so. . .

I have contacts in Los Angeles, and some of them have to know something. I don't expect them to be easy to track down. They're probably in hiding, just like the survivors in Vegas. But I'm going to try. Cassie's going to hit up her sources, too. Maybe between us, we can come up with some sort of useful information -- something that's been seriously lacking for a while now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day Eighty

Day 80: 20 Oct 2010

The meet was set for eight this morning, and Cassie and I made it to the hotel in East L.A. by seven. It was a run-down place on City Terrace, all horrible stucco and Spanish tile. Cassie already had the key to a room on the 3rd floor.

The room was Spartan, at best -- a twin bed, a small table, and an old tube TV. It wasn't clean so much as it was mostly empty. Cassie sat on the bed and checked her watch.

"Less than an hour," she said. "If we're lucky, meth-heads won't kill us before then."

"Doubt they could," I said.

I'd been feeling better since we got to Los Angeles yesterday. The sea breeze was doing wonders. The slug seemed sharper, too, but still quiet. I felt like I was the one in control, which was both great and a little worrisome.

I had no idea what to expect as the clock rolled on to eight. Travis seemed amenable to talking, Cassie had told me. That tracked. It seemed he was looking for me, not on a mission to wipe out the West Coast Syndicate. Would we just have a nice, calm sit-down? Chat about whatever was on Travis' mind?

As it turned out, no. Not at all.

* * *

Travis didn't even bother to knock. At 7:58, he burst through the door, crossing the room in less than a second, heading dead-on at me.

I wasn't ready for an attack. But the slug was. Instantly, I dodged left, and his fist sailed harmlessly by. The slug was fully in control now -- no doubt of that. I was back to the familiar sensation of watching things happen, unable to control my own body.

I kicked at Travis' kneecap, hard. His leg snapped back, but instantly righted itself. He shrieked, a short, wordless cry, and threw the TV with a flick of his wrist. I felt the crappy Zenith explode against the side of my skull, but I barely stumbled.

The TV to the head was enough, though. I was off balance for just a second; Travis dove at me, catching me around the midsection with his shoulder. My feet left the ground. We both crashed through the wall, and suddenly, we were on the street, Travis' knee in my chest. He raised one fist and wailed.

Before I knew what happened, Travis was off me, slammed into a parked car about 25 feet away. Cassie was standing over me, smirking. She reached out a hand and helped me up as Travis pulled himself out from the mangled BMW she'd knocked him into.

"How did --"

"Flew. Cool, eh?" Cassie said as I got to my feet. I realized it was me talking, not the slug. He'd let me have some control back. As Travis charged at me, I raised one hand, palm out -- though I don't know if it was me or the slug who did it. Travis stopped dead.

I opened my mouth, and the loudest, most horrible shriek I've ever heard came out. Travis replied with a howl of his own.

The two of us stood there in the street, communicating (I think) for almost a full minute. Then, Travis nodded and walked away.

I could hear police sirens not far off, and I knew they were headed my way.

"OK. What the fuck was that? What did you guys say?" Cassie asked as we double-timed it back to the car.

"I have no idea," I told her, and it was the truth. But I knew one thing. My slug wasn't sick at all. It had been playing me.

I just wish I knew why. Or what the hell had just happened.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day Seventy-Nine

Day 79: 19 Oct 2010

Drove six hours to Los Angeles this morning. Cassie didn't tell me why we stopped in Vegas -- I didn't ask. She was quiet for most of the drive, though. I guess she had some thinking to do. I know the feeling.

We meet Travis tomorrow. Cassie arranged it so the three of us can meet on neutral ground -- away from Syndicate-controlled territory, at a hotel in East L.A. Until that time, we're staying at one of the Syndicate safehouses, one they keep in town just for me. It was empty when we got there. Can't say I'm surprised -- everyone in the Syndicate is probably laying low.

That makes them smarter than us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Seventy-Eight

Day 78: 18 Oct 2010

Road trip stop today at Cassie's request. She says she needs a day.



I plan to check in at some old haunts -- don't expect much to find anyone still breathing, but I have a day to kill.

Checked my old residence in North Vegas. Phil and a couple of others used to have apartments there. The place was abandoned. Burned to the ground. Police tape still clung to the fences.

Also checked out a couple of industrial properties of ours. The West Coast Syndicate used them as clearinghouses for drugs and weapons. More tape, more ashes. Travis had been thorough.

I even sought out a couple of contractors -- people who didn't work directly for the Syndicate, but ran errands from time to time. There was a blackjack dealer at the Wynn, for example, who used to spy on the Russians for us. No one at work had seen him for days. Same deal with Reggie, a mechanic who worked on our vehicles and consulted for our auto-theft people -- vanished last week.

Travis knew way too much about the Syndicate's organization. I realized he must have help -- one of the Chinese, maybe. Perhaps he's getting information from the Russians, or the street gangs we often employed. I have to assume he knows everything now.

And that means he knows about the project in Los Angeles. And him knowing about that means nothing good at all. For any of us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Seventy-Seven

Day 77: 17 Oct 2010

Cassie explained the situation to me as we drove to Los Angeles today.

"I got him to agree to stop killing. At least until you get to Los Angeles and he can talk to you," she said.

"Why would he do that? I mean, why stop?" I asked.

"I managed to convince him that slaughtering the West Coast Syndicate was pointless, as you're no longer under their control."

"But I am," I said.

"I don't think you are anymore. You haven't contacted them in weeks. Bet it hasn't even bothered you. I think you're the one driving now, not your slug."

I hadn't thought of it like that. Was she right? Am I free?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Seventy-Six

Day 76: 16 Oct 2010

I was packing the car today when Cassie appeared outside the hotel room.

"We going somewhere?" she asked.

"Where the hell have you been?" I was angry, and I didn't try to hide it. Some screeching definitely crept back into my voice.

"Um. . . where you told me to be. Checking in with some people, seeing if we could get a location on Travis."

She frowned. I could tell she was confused, and I was definitely heading that way myself.

"And I told you to do this?"

"Three days ago. We were standing almost exactly where we are now. You said it was worrying that Travis hadn't shown up yet. I agreed," she said. "Then I mentioned I could check in with Vince, but you said the phones probably weren't safe."

I didn't remember any of this.

"That's when you suggested we split up -- I go see Vince and a few other contacts, see what I could find out. You'd stay here. Wait to see if Travis popped up."

"I. . . shit. I don't remember that conversation at all."

The slug had done the talking. Of course. Probably while I was asleep -- that didn't worry me, as it happened all the time. And it wasn't even a bad plan, really. What really bothered me was that the slug hadn't let me know about it at all -- he'd just let me think Cassie had vanished.

Either he meant to keep me out of the loop (for what reason, I can't say), or he forgot to tell me, thanks to his growing weakness. I'm really hoping for the former, as that's at least happened before.

"So, what did you find out?"

"A lot. None of it good."

Cassie went on to tell me that the West Coast people in Las Vegas were either dead or running scared. Others had stepped in -- the Chinese, the Russians, a few more -- but they hadn't been messed with. Travis didn't seem to care about them -- just my bosses. From Las Vegas, he'd left a trail of bodies leading to the West Coast Syndicate's home city -- Los Angeles. Just as I'd sensed.

"So, looks like we go there," I said.

"Yeah," Cassie said. "Just one more thing -- he knows we're coming."

"How could he?"

"Because I told him."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day Seventy-Five

Day 75: 15 Oct 2010

Shit. I need a plan. I've spent the entire day in the hotel, waiting for Cassie to show back up. She didn't. The slug is telling me to go to Los Angeles, to get back to the sea. I don't know if he knows something I don't. I don't know much. Part of me thinks he just wants to get back to the sea, to get away from the thin, dry mountain air. But maybe. . . maybe he knows.

Maybe he's trying to tell me that he's picked up Travis' scent. I've decided -- I'll wait one more day for Cassie to come back. If she doesn't, I'm in the car and heading for Los Angeles.

Not like I've got many other options at this point.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day Seventy-Four

Day 74: 14 Aug 2010

Disturbing developments today. One -- when I woke up this morning, Cassie was nowhere to be found. Compound problem: I wasn't *supposed* to wake up at all this morning, because I wasn't supposed to have slept in the first place.

See, I fall asleep all the time. The slug sleeps only rarely -- maybe an hour every couple of weeks. But one of us is always up. Our eyes haven't closed for longer than a second in the past six years.

The fact that I fell asleep, then the slug did, is bad. Quite bad, in fact, because it means the slug is even weaker than I thought -- he last slept for an hour or so three days ago.

And Cassie's disappearance -- that's troubling. Did she wander off? Did something happen to her?

More good news, too. I still have no idea where Travis is. I don't know if he's learned to hide himself, or if it's due to the slug's declining health that I can't sense him.

Either way, no answers today. Just more anxiety.

Outstanding.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day Seventy-Three

Day 73: 13 Oct 2010

Still no Travis. I'm beginning to think I miscalculated his move -- I thought for sure he'd be on his way. And try as I might, I've had no luck tracking him. It's like he dropped off the face of the planet.

Crap. This is not good. Not at all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day Seventy-Two

Day 72: 12 Oct 2010

Still waiting. Cassie's getting antsy. Don't blame her. How long does it take to get from Nevada to Colorado?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day Seventy-One

Day 71: 11 Oct 2010

Just realized that today and yesterday were both binary days -- the dates worked out to binary codes. I mention this only because it's a random, pointless thought I had -- and I haven't had any of those in more than six years. The slug finds our random nature -- the wandering of our minds -- distasteful, so he tends to stop random thinking before it starts.

Today, though, I felt my mind wander. To have its own pointless, rambling, spontaneous musings again. I was shocked at first. Then I got worried.

That one thought may mean a lot more than reflection on the date. I know the slug is getting weaker now. Can he no longer stop my mind from wandering? Or perhaps he can, but he just doesn't want to waste the energy it would take?

Scary stuff with Travis, his power new and strong, bearing down on us -- and I have no doubt that's exactly what he's doing. Since Cassie's transformation, I've made no attempt to hide myself from Travis' senses. The longer I run, the more people will die. I know he's on his way.

I just have no clue what'll happen when he gets here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day Seventy

Day 70: 10 Oct 2010

Finally checked in by phone today with my bosses at the West Coast Syndicate. There was no answer. In the hotel lobby this morning, though, I noticed a newspaper headline: "Gangland Massacre in Nevada." Not an encouraging sign.

Cassie and I decided to stay in the mountains for the time being. Travis and I will be weakest here, should it come to combat. But Cassie will be at her best, which will put us ahead, if only slightly.

Now, we're just waiting on Travis.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day Sixty-Nine

Day 69: 09 Oct 2010

Watching Cassie sleep peacefully through her transformation reminds me of my own change, six years ago now. My transformation was anything but peaceful, though.

It was also anything but intentional. I wasn't supposed to get the slug. I wasn't even supposed to be there. I was in Los Angeles to meet a guy about a cargo ship job. He said to meet him in Long Beach. I must have gotten my buildings confused, because I sure as hell strolled into the exact wrong place at the wrong goddamn time.

There were four men in the warehouse. Three of them were wearing suits -- I could see them through the open door when I parked. They looked businesslike -- maybe like they were waiting to interview someone for a job -- so in I walked. That's when I saw guy #4.

He was a young guy, maybe 22. They had him duct-taped to a chair, and one of the suits was walking towards him with a duffel bag. The suit opened the bag and pulled out a big glass jar full of water -- something was thrashing around inside. He took off the lid slowly.

That's when one of the suits noticed me.

"Shit. My bad," I said, backpedaling. "I saw nothing."

The lid hit the floor. Before anyone could move, something leaped out of the jar, crossing the room in an instant. I opened my mouth to yell in surprise. That was a mistake.

The slug forced its way down my throat, and the change was underway.

It was a violent two weeks. Painful. Maddening. And when I came out the other side, I was no longer in control. The slug was controlling my body and mind completely. I was little more than a passenger, watching as he dutifully used me to kill, maim, destroy whatever they pointed him towards.

When Cassie woke just before midnight, she showed no sign that the change had been tough on her at all. In fact, she smiled.

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"Out-fucking-standing," she laughed. "Now. . . let's get to work, shall we?"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day Sixty-Eight

Day 68: 08 Oct 2010

Cassie is still asleep. Her change is quicker, but less invasive, less complete, than Travis' or mine. It's also not permanent, a fact of which she is well aware.

But, hopefully, her change will give us the edge we require. Until we see how well the child of the god of air has adjusted to her as a host, we won't know anything for sure.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day Sixty-Seven

Day 67: 07 Oct 2010

This morning we finally stopped the car. We're safe for at least a while, so now I can fill in some blanks.

We're in El Paso County, Colorado. Current elevation: 14,115 ft. Temperature is a rather pleasant 58 degrees, but the air's thin. My slug doesn't like that at all -- he prefers humid, thick air, and this is neither.

We came here to Pikes Peak for a reason. It's not just that Travis will have a tough journey to get here -- that's a fortunate side effect. No, Cassie needs the elevation. Needs the thin, dry air. And unless we could somehow get to Alaska, this was the best place for it.

I have to back up here. Travis' slug has already made you aware of some of what is happening, though he didn't know some of the things I know. Fortunately.

He told you that there were two would-be gods -- one of air and one of land. This is correct. He also mentioned their armies. People that these gods, like our father, would turn to their own purpose. The god of air did this in a similar fashion to our father. He would introduce an organism -- a piece of himself -- into an ancient human, and that human would change. Evolve. Grow into. . .

Well, something else. Something no longer human, but not like me or Travis.

Travis' slug wasn't aware of the box in Texas. I only became aware of it recently, while I was there doing a job for my handlers. The man who owned it didn't know what it was.

I did. It stirred some racial memory deep down in the slug -- it was a child of the god of air. And it was viable. It was alive.

And in two more days, all going to plan, it will join with Cassie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day Sixty-Six

Day 66: 06 Oct 2010

Busy. Cassie's asleep. The change is taking hold, and we're on the move.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day Sixty-Five

Day 65: 05 Oct 2010

Cassie slept through the day, got up once to eat, and went back to sleep all night, leaving me on my own. Her backup place was in Vegas Heights, and it was a dump of a one-bedroom apartment in a small complex with bars on the windows.

You know, I'm pretty sure you could replace the word "Heights" with "Ghetto" in most neighborhoods and still be completely accurate. I heard random gunshots throughout the day and night, but it wasn't as if I was worried for my safety, or Cassie's for that matter. Bullets don't bother me -- it's not like they can do much but mess up my clothes. And Cassie seemed comfortable enough in the hood.

What I didn't hear, not once, was a police siren. And if Travis was going to come at us out here, we'd have plenty of warning. He was most likely to muscle his way to us; there would be plenty of gunfire and explosions to tip us off.

I was worried, though. About food. I hadn't eaten in weeks, and I couldn't afford to starve the slug, who was already on the decline. I'd need him soon.

A drug dealer two streets over provided the first meal. I wish I could say I felt bad about it, but I really didn't. Not a bit. Years with the slug had corrupted my already shaky morality. He was simply scum, and served no useful purpose while he drew breath. Once I ripped the warm, beating heart from his chest, at least he served some purpose -- to nourish the slug. He became useful -- possibly for the first time in his life.

When Cassie woke this afternoon, I was feeling much better. My strength had returned. It was time to put my plans into motion.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day Sixty-Four

Day 64: 04 Oct 2010

I'd pushed the Lexus to more than 60 mph before Travis started falling behind. By 80, we couldn't see him.

"I knew you guys could move fast, but that was nuts," Cassie said, shaking her head.

"Did you get it?" I asked, slowing down.

"I think so," Cassie said, opening her messenger bag and pulling out a small wooden box covered in flowing, black script."Still don't know what it is, though."

"Did you open it?"

"Tried to. It wouldn't open, not any way I could figure, anyway."

"Yeah, there's a trick to it. We need to get somewhere safe, somewhere Travis doesn't know about. Then I'll explain everything."

"Right. Go to North Vegas. I have another place there. Explanation's gonna have to wait though -- I haven't slept in two days. And I'd about murder for a beer."

I nodded and drove to where Cassie indicated.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day Sixty-Three

Day 63: 03 Oct 2010

Las Vegas is a true 24-hour town. Forget about New York's title of city that never sleeps -- that's a lie. I've been to New York, seen it without motion, heard it without a sound. It sleeps, or at least parts of it do.

Not so in Vegas. I've been stationed here the better part of five years, and I've never seen or heard it sleep. There are always people moving about. Always voices. In the whole time I've been here, I've never experienced silence or stillness.

Take McCarran International Airport. Flights coming and going around the clock, welcoming newcomers like fresh blood and expelling the losers, money gone, like vomitus. A whole functioning biological system, pumping cash instead of hemoglobin.

Cassie's flight was scheduled to land at midnight. I'd heard nothing from her while she was in Texas, but that was by design. The Chinese (and my own bosses) notoriously eavesdropped. Cell phones and email are not anywhere close to secure, but even land lines were vulnerable. Besides, I don't have a phone, anyway.

I pulled up to the airport at about ten minutes to midnight, driving one of the West Coast Syndicate's fleet of Lexus LS sedans. I'd been ducking my employers for days -- they probably wouldn't send anyone but Phil to track me down, but he hadn't yet shown up. I knew I had to check in with them, but first, I had to see if Cassie accomplished her objective.

I waited in the idling Lexus. The radio was off -- the slug hates our music -- and the engine wasn't making noise, so I heard it when the SUV pulled up behind me. Before I looked, I knew it was Travis -- I could sense it. I checked the rear-view mirror and saw him step out of the huge truck. He was wearing black pants and a black shirt, and sunglasses even in the dark. He looked bigger. More muscular. Even more than me. As he slowly approached the driver's side of my car, I saw Cassie walk out of the baggage claim doors. I floored the accelerator. The Lexus stopped inches from Cassie, who, seeing Travis, immediately got in. We peeled away from the curb, the engine howling.

"Uh, Jared, we have a problem," Cassie said as we accelerated, turning to look out the back window.

I checked the rear-view again. Travis was running after us, keeping pace. On foot.

No, he wasn't keeping pace. He was gaining.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day Sixty-Two

Day 62: 02 Oct 2010

Laying low today. Trying to keep my brain inactive as possible. Will check back in tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day Sixty-One

Day 61: 01 Oct 2010

Sent Cassie on an assignment this morning -- drove her to Maccarran myself. She'll be back in two days. She's headed to Central Texas -- there's something we need, and my slug assures me it's there.

Cassie was skeptical, of course.

"You're listening to an eons-old slug? How does it even know where Texas is?" she complained. Her logic was sound, I guess.

At least, from her point of view.

I played the whole "do it for Travis" card again. Don't know how long that'll keep working. Don't know how long I'll need it to keep working. She got on the plane, though. That's what counts.

Now comes the tough part. I've got to keep on Travis' radar just enough to keep him in Las Vegas, but not so much so that he can actually track me down. It's going to take a lot of careful tip-toeing and some moments of quick movement -- and I'm not sure me and the slug are up to it.

We need to eat.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day Sixty

Day 60: 30 Sep 2010

Got an email from Phil this morning. Phil's my handler -- the guy who's responsible for me, I suppose. He got the job because he's not completely terrified of me.

My last handler was better -- a guy named Kevin. Strange person. Missing both of his hands, though he never told me how that happened. He vanished from the Syndicate about a year ago. I liked him. Knew him for a few weeks before the slug took up residence. He didn't seem afraid of me in the least. He was a shit driver, though.

Anyway, the email from Phil. He'd had some of the Syndicate's ghouls out looking for Cassie Chow at my request. He didn't ask why. At 5:22 this morning, his message popped up in my inbox -- they'd tracked her to an auto shop near the Stratosphere, North Strip.

I don't usually drive myself. The bosses like to keep an eye on me -- that's where Phil comes in. They don't trust me on my own. And that's smart, but it's not like I need their permission to do anything -- I just feel compelled to do what they tell me. No one told me not to go out to that garage today, so I did.

The place was locked up tight, but that wasn't a problem for me. A Master Lock and a chain -- I can break those with one hand.

The place looked empty inside, and all the lights were off. I knew it wasn't empty, though. I could hear someone breathing, twenty paces into the darkness. Smell someone sweating.

"Cassie Chow," I said. I did my best to control the screechy-factor of my voice -- it came out sounding merely raspy, like I'd been a smoker for 50 years.

"I know you're here. I'm not here to hurt you," I continued. "I'm Jared Sykes. Travis' brother."

The lights flickered on. Cassie stood in the doorway of a small office, pointing an assault rifle dead-center at my chest -- an M16A4, unless I miss my guess.

"Don't move," she said slowly.

"We both know that won't do much, but keep it pointed at me if it makes you feel better. I'm here to talk about Travis," I said.

"Travis is gone. He's like you now. He can't be saved -- he said so," Cassie told me.

"He is like me -- but there's something we can do about it. If you're willing to help me," I told her. My voice was less raspy now. I've been working on it.

"Bullshit. If it could be reversed, I doubt you'd be like you are."

"Not bullshit. There's a way. I know it's hard to trust me, but if you care about Travis -- and I can tell you do -- you'll have to."

She lowered her weapon.

"Fine. Let's talk. But I'll warn you -- I can blow this entire place up if I need to. Doubt you could walk away from that."

I knew I could walk away from such an explosion, but I didn't feel the need to mention it as I followed her into the office.