<<Previous Sydney’s Emporium Next>>
The first thing that Maverick recognised was the smell of ash and burnt meat. Then came the pain.
Maverick knew he had never truly felt pain before until then. He’s father was an arse but he didn’t make him eat broken glass instead of wheaties, didn’t leave him crippled in agony. This was something out of a horror movie.
He couldn’t think of a good way to express the torment nor was there any particular area where the torture felt worse. It was everywhere; his skin, his organs, even his eyelids and teeth felt that they were being pulled off.
Through the pain he recalled the nurse back in the hospital and how she had pumped his body full of liquid death.
The dial on Maverick’s fear meter turned from ten to a thousand. Was he back in his body? Had all of that shit with Sydney been a delusion to escape this crap?
“Fuck.” Maverick hissed. His throat felt dry and there was a metallic taste in his mouth. Had he bit his own lip? Was he coughing up blood?
“Help.” his whine was only answered by the wind.
Maverick couldn’t help himself, he went into a foetal position as if it would minimise the agony. Meanwhile he continued to breathe in the smell of ash.
He didn’t know how long he lay there. It could have been a year or it could have been just five seconds.
Unable to handle the agony, Maverick thankfully passed out.
He awoke some time later. He didn’t know when, time didn’t really mater when you would seriously beg someone to put a bullet in your head to ease the pain.
He had thought it had been light before, but now it was dark. Dark enough that he thought he was back in that crate, waiting for Sydney to come yank him out.
His body still felt stiff and broken, but it was at least bearable.
Maverick wanted to cry, but his tear ducts were empty. He hadn’t realised before but beyond the pain there was thirst. He felt like he had been dragging his body through the Sahara desert. He wanted to drink but the pain kept him down.
“Help me.” Maverick whined.
Thirty minutes passed before the thirst surpassed the pain. It took effort that Maverick didn’t think he had.
He would have done anything to take the edge away. Every despicable act a human could imagine and Maverick would have done it with little hesitation just to make it all stop.
Maverick didn’t know he had it in him but he pushed himself up. He was somewhat grateful for the lack of a penis, if his twig and berries felt half as bad as the rest of him he would have chosen to lay down and die.
Somehow, Maverick was on his hands and knees. He felt like hammered shit, his throat was stone dry, and it was not going away.
Not knowing where he was going, Maverick brushed up against something that he felt was a log. In his delirium he noticed the cat-like face.
Seeing a dead body did nothing to rattle Mocrey’s resolve. He was too far gone to feel fear, the pain and the need for a drink was the only thing in his universe.
A thought. Something buried deep. Blood was wet.
Maverick, using claws he didn’t know he had, sent his fingers into the Cali’s burnt flesh. The lioness was burnt on the outside and cool inside.
Maverick had gone mad, or that was what he told himself later. He drank the Cali’s blood, fat, and anything that felt moist. He knew something was twisting inside him. His whole body was in pain and nothing inside him felt right.
Sticky with blood, Maverick scoured the area for another body.
He was in some kind of village or what had been a village. Whatever was left of it were mounds of ash and bodies.
Maverick was about to crawl over to the next crispy Cali when he noticed the well. A small fire was sticking to the side of the well but Maverick didn’t care about that, his eyes were on the well.
“Wa.Wa…Wa.mer” he tried to say but Maverick’s tongue and lips refused to listen.
On Maverick’s chest, the sapphire glowed.
A pillar of water engulfed Maverick.
Maverick’s eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to scream only to breath in the water. With nothing to contain it the water splashed onto the ground.
Maverick coughed out a gout of water that had got caught in his lungs.
Face down in the wet ash, Maverick tried to breath. He couldn’t attempt to know what happened. He just wanted the world to stop picking on him.
A minute later, Maverick stopped almost dying and opened his eyes, “Was te thuck?”
His arms shaking, Maverick got onto a kneeling position. He tried again to speak, “What the fuck just happened?”
Warning. Error. Error.
Summoning Gemstone database compromised.
Unregistered life form data in gem matrix.
Environmental terraforming error. Error 575
Maverick closed his eyes but the same lines of text kept scrolling across his vision.
The armband’s light blinked and vibrated.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Sydney’s voice blasted from Maverick’s armband.
Maverick held his ears at the mere volume of Sydney’s voice. You knew you screwed up big when the boss started screaming at you from another universe away.
“Sydney. I’m… I’m hurt.” Maverick said. He didn’t mean to sound like that guy who gave weak excuses to get out of work, but he really needed a day off.
“You have corrupted a Summoning Gem.” Sydney said, sounding pissed, “You overrode its pre-specified creature with something that doesn’t exist on any material world.”
“Sydney. I need you to call Driver. I… I feel like I’m dying, here” Maverick said.
There was a moment of silence and Maverick thought that he blacked out again. Sydney, sounding more calm came from the armband, “I am registering several of my stolen stock items around you. Retrieve them and meet” Sydney spoke Driver’s true name. “to this destination.”
The map in Maverick’s head suddenly appeared. It showed an area to the south that was near a river. “Fail me, and the pain you feel now will be nothing.” Sydney vowed.
It was nothing like an aspiring talk from your commander and chief to put things in perspective.
Not doubting that Sydney could make him feel sorry. Maverick breathed in deeply and forced his body to stand, “Get up. Get up you piece of shit.” he told himself and his muscles.
Standing he nearly feel down again as a wave of dizziness smacked him across the head.
Before he fell on his backside, Maverick imagined a glass of ice water.
Suddenly, reality warped and another pillar of water surrounding Maverick. This time he had enough sense to drink and not breath in water.
On his ass and nearly buried in a pond of ash and water, Maverick looked around. “What the fuck keeps doing that?” he shouted to anyone that could answer him. He brushed some damp ash from his chest and discovered something hard there.
“What?” Maverick yipped as he saw the biggest damn jewel embedded in his sternum. He tried to pull it free but the thing wouldn’t come out.
“Owe.” he said as he gave it one good yank. He tried to rid himself of the gemstone four more times and each time it hurt.
Eventually Maverick gave up. The thing looked fixed to his chest, as apart of him as a tattoo. It was probably just as well. If it was buried that deep, Maverick saw himself bleed out if he managed to remove the gem.
Maverick examined the clingy jewel.
Name. Summoning Gemstone.
Item Type: Miniature.
Status: Broken. Error. Error.
Environmental terraforming error. Error 575
Report to technical support.
So this was the summoning gem. Maverick tried to recall how he had found the artefact but all he could remember was a tribe of semi-naked cat girls and lots of water.
He closed his eye, willing his map to come up. Maverick nearly swore. He was nearly forty kilometres from the lake. Just how long had he been unconscious and how did he get from there to here?
If he had to guess he had just walked from one side of Melbourne to the other and had no knowledge of how he did it. But there was something more.
During his walk with Incisor and Scratch-Ear, Maverick had been examining the map of this area. Searching for any avenue that his party could get in, steal the items and get out. The last time he checked there was nothing but forest. Now there was an ugly black spot that stretched across what had been pristine jungle like an angry bruise.
Maverick looked around and really hoped that he hadn’t started it.
Then he noticed the yellow dots around him. Sydney hadn’t been kidding. Six out of seven artefacts were around.
He opened his eyes and attempted to stand again. He still felt like crap but the idea of being tortured by a blue ringed octopus made him focus.
Feeling like he just hurled up part of his soul, Maverick stumbled forward, “Worst. Job. Ever.” he spat.
Following the nearest yellow dot, Maverick looked down. The body that lay before him was unrecognisable. It looked like a statue made of dust that had succumbed to its own weight. One arm was gone and the head looked as if it went through a paper shredder.
A few paces away from the body a severed hand held what looked like a javelin.
Name: Spear of Orga
Item Type: Weapon. Accessory.
Tousen’s travels. Series 4. Limited edition.
Tosun’s spear was said to be born from the forked tongue of a Bingpp.
“Sweet.” Maverick said. He picked up the spear and noticed that the hand came with it. “Oh, come on.”
Before this whole episode with Sydney, Maverick would have freaked out at the sight of a severed hand and a mutilated body. Now he just couldn’t work up the energy to care any more.
There was a sickening snap as Maverick broke one of the fingers. He really need to sit down some time and read that contract.