Penumbra: Team mates (part two of three)

Ron peaked out around the dark corner. Four guards marched past as the two swordsmen lurked in the shadows. The guards rounded another corner and the two dashed across the corridor. Ron pressed himself into a doorway as another set of guards’ boots reverberated down the hall. He glanced at λ, who drew his lightblade. Ron gripped the sword handle behind his back. 

The boots drew nearer and nearer. Bang.

Bang.

Bang.

The first set of soldiers stepped even with the two agents.

Bang. 

They stepped just past the two. Ron dove behind and λ dove in front. There was a flash, his blade appearing a brilliant blue. The soldiers tried to shout, but Ron drew his sword. His hand found the proper rune, and the world went silent. Ron and λ sliced at the enemies. Ron slammed his sword down straight on the back of a soldier’s helmet. The next one turned, and his hilt found the man’s eye. The two soldiers dropped as λ deactivated his blade, his adversaries incapacitated as well. 

“Did we kill them?” Ron gaped. λ knelt besides the two men and examined their pulses. He shook his head. 

“No. You merely knocked them out cold.” He kicked a door open and carted a body in. 

“Ok.” Ron sighed. “Um and uh did you?”

“No my friend.” λ held up his sleek sword hilt. “The blade pierces skin and muscle. It goes past bone and marrow. It strikes the very spirit.”

“Huh.”

“My sword doesn’t strike the physical, as your blade does. I can cut and not kill with it, slicing away my enemy’s energy.” He nodded and the two dragged the rest of the soldiers in. “It is a Masamune, a weapon of good.” He heaved the last body in the storage closet and smiled. 

“So you have a sword that can’t kill?” That seemed pretty neat. 

“Oh no my friend. I never said that.” At that, λ lanced forward, his long legs carrying him down the corridor. Ron sheathed his blade and followed behind. The two eventually came to a door. The sound of voices muddled together as Ron pressed his ear to the door. The rhythmic heavy hammer of industrial machinery banged beyond the wall. Suddenly the door slammed open, and Ron tumbled inward. 

“Intruders!” Screamed a voice and a cacophony of others joined him. Ron smashed the man, who had opened the door, in his face. He rolled behind a tower of machinery. λ ducked behind the wall as the clatter of machine gun fire went off. 

“Terrence! Speak softly failed, situation requires big stick!” 

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Penumbra: Teammates (part 1 of 3)

Ron locked his bedroom door, and walked to the center of his room. Homework was done, now was the good part of his days. He closed his eyes and extended a hand to the door. He let his mind relax, his thoughts flowing out like a stream. His breathing slowed and his heart steadied. The dream of another place filled his mind. His body moved in the trance and he opened up the door. 
Rather than the hallway to his bedroom, the door opened on a vast field. A sea of green grass flowed under the currents of a gentle breeze. A full moon hung perpetually midnight above him. It flowed a magnificent orange as Ron ran towards the red granite castle. It’s keep sat squat behind a thick wall. Four high towers thrust into the sky at its corners. Their flag, a black field with a silver flame, flapped proudly in the breeze. 

Their flag. He slid down a green hill and then rolled onto the drawbridge. He dusted himself off and sauntered across the base. They were the order of the Silver Flame, and they were monster fighters. Every night he was out fighting monsters, like IRL, or as IRL as his life could be. The dim entryway was lit by green flames that cast odd shadows and colors. Ron shoved his hands in his pockets as he crossed the threshold into a great hall. The hall was empty except for one other occupant. 

The girl sat on the far end of the room. Two huge piles of books were stacked high on either side of her. A bag of chips sat in front of her, her hand rummaged around trying to scrape the last bits out. Ron slowly walked across the great hall and sat across from her. 

“Oh! Uh hi Ronald…” Her head tipped up and Ron shifted uncomfortably. How the heck did it feel like she could always see straight through him? Especially with that ridiculous blind fold? Yet without fail he got a chill when she “looked” at him. She had on a plain white dress and a silver blind fold over her eyes. 

“Hey Lily.” Ron dropped himself across from her with a thud. The two sat in silence, broken only by the occasional flip of one book to the other pile. “Are you reading without opening the books?” Lily just nodded. 

“It’s faster.” Lily mumbled at her chips.

“Fair ’nuff.” Ron turned around and leaned back against the table. The sound of metal soles on the floor gave Ron a reason to lazily look down a corridor. 

The first member to appear was Terence. Ron could hear the clank and whir of his mechanical limbs echoing furiously down the hall. He stepped into the torchlight and glowed orange and red off his limbs and metal jaw. The sleek silvery hands, tightened in fists that could crush coal to diamonds, swung as he easily outdistanced the others on his massive legs. He easily dwarfed his companion who trailed behind him. Terrence was broad and λ was lanky. Terrence’s muscles bulged under his black sleeveless shirt, λ wore a long black jacket that hung to his knees. Terrence had two long pale scars across his black skin. One of his eyes glowed a mechanical red. λ, on the other hand, had no scars on his face, or elsewhere on his yellow skin for that matter. His boots stuck out from beneath his long pants, each step clicked every time the heels hit the floor. The final man wore a long cape and a massive hat. The cape billowed behind him, as he rushed on his short legs to catch up. A silver and ornate hilt hung on his left hip, swinging noisily as he ran. His body was pudgy, and his face turned the color of a tomato as he tried to keep up with the much taller men. 

“Ronald, we have a mission.” Terence growled.
By TKH Hamilton

Penumbra: Star Light (part 3 of 3)

George sauntered away from his brother as soon as he had the chance. When Richard had bent down to examine something, George had tiptoed away. When he was far enough he picked up to a run through the corn. As he ran, George shoved his hands in his pockets and wrapped his fingers around the fresh batteries from Richard’s flash light. Their mother had told them to change the batteries in the lights, and George did just that. Richard hadn’t realized his batteries wouldn’t last the night. Served the brat right for playing in his room while George was away. The sight of his brother’s light flickering in the night sky gave George a reason to pause. Now he could head back and rescue his brother. That was the plan at least. 

George realized that he had no idea which path he had come up. Three paths stretched and wound like snakes in the direction he came. George peered up each path and frowned. He closed his eyes trying to remember how he had reached this intersection. When he opened them he felt his jaw drop. He was certain that he hadn’t moved and yet none of the four paths were in the same place. He shook his head, there had only been three paths when he closed his eyes. Yet before him stood four different paths. Before George could decide which path he would go on, a smell reached his nose.

The smell was sweet like sugar and George turned to follow it. He wandered down a path as the scent grew stronger and stronger. The smell grew and grew until he reached a clearing with a man. The man wore a black cloak and gold epaulettes. His head hung over a cauldron, so all George could see was his pale yellow hair. The man held a long spoon and stirred the cauldron slowly. The smell overflowed from the black cauldron and filled George. George began to walk near when the man reached up and plucked a head of corn off the maze. George looked around and saw a sign that had been snapped and thrown aside. Similar signs were scattered all through out the maze, but this one felt different. Most of the signs read: “DO NOT PICK THE CORN!” In bright red letters on a white sign that had been hammered in the ground. This sign though, had been snapped. The post was still in the ground, but the sign lay face up in the dirt. The sign wasn’t the usual white with red letters, but green with gold letters. It read “do not eat this corn.” No capital letters. No exclamation point. In fact the letters had been written in ornate and careful cursive, rather than printed in bold and thick letters. Unlike all the rest of the signs, this one had a signature at the bottom. In the same stately writing it read: “The Grower.” The only capital letters on the sign. George felt that he mustn’t eat that corn. The other signs had demanded, almost threatened, obedience. This one asked, or perhaps warned, George not to eat.

“Would you like some kettle corn?” The man at the cauldron asked. His voice deep and  resonant. George stepped forward and looked at the sign. 

“The sign says you aren’t supposed to eat that.” George replied. He stepped forward as the man tipped the cauldron toward him and more of the delicious smell came pouring out. 

“Oh, and do you know who wrote that sign?” The man asked George. George stepped forward, he was just going to smell. There was no rule against smelling. 

“The Grower.” George read off the sign. As he looked he felt the urge to run. To flee the man and the smell and the cauldron and the… 

“Yes.” Snarled the man. “The grower wrote that sign.” He calmed a little and George looked away from the sign towards the man. “Do you know what else the grower did?” The man seemed to seethe as he spoke. If George hadn’t been so mesmerized by the voice and the smell, he would have seen that the man was having difficulty keeping his rage in check. A head of corn snapped in his crushing grip. “He grew this whole field. Don’t you think he has more than enough corn for anyone?”

“I suppose He does.” George didn’t know quite why he had emphasized the word “He” but it seemed to make the stirring man stir a little harder. 

“Yes, and he says you and I can’t have any.” The man spat in the mud. George paused at this. The sign hadn’t said that. It said not to eat this corn. There was certainly other corn he could eat. Yet the man didn’t think so. “Isn’t that unfair?” The man said. He scooped some of the kettle corn from his cauldron and poured it in a bag. The smell was delightful, it was warm and sugary. George again stepped nearer, and as he did so he stepped on the sign. He looked down at it and felt that he should just leave. The sound of the crunching of kettle corn. George looked up. The man chewed slowly on the corn, savoring it.

“Is it good?” George stepped nearer.

“Delicious.” The man held out the bag.

“It is good?” George drew closer.

“Just try a bite.” The man grinned. His one visible eye glowing a ghastly blue.

“You’re sure it’s good?” George shoved a hand in the bag. 

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.” The man said as George threw a handful in his mouth. Instantly George snatched the bag away. The man let him. The man watched as George gorged himself on the corn. Within moments the bag was gone and George sat in the ground licking his fingers. 

“More.” The boy whispered. 

“Another time.”

“No.” 

“I have to make more.” The man said rising. “Next time, George, bring your brother, and your sister.” George nodded. He’d bring them, but they wouldn’t eat. It was his corn. His corn. His corn! HIS CORN!!! 

“How do I find you?”

“Oh we will find you George. You only need to bring your siblings when the time comes.” The man began to prepare to vanish when an orange bolt of light shot past him. The Penumbra agent aimed again and unleashed a barrage of orange energy from her rifle. The dark man fought the urge to engage, tonight he had won. He waved his hand and all the field and people vanished. The lights in the sky disappeared as well, though he and George hadn’t noticed them at all. He was left in dream space and the maze returned to the real world. His master stood before him and he knelt.

“A most prudent investment Baron Von Todersfurcht. I applaud that. I, for one feel certain it will yield well on the return.” CEO declared. 

Projected: T minus 69 days

Penumbra: Star Light (part 2 of 3)

The feeling of answering a distress call without a capsule was often found, to put it mildly, uncomfortable. Agent Julia Shepherd agreed with most of her peers on that matter. Clark never complained when they had worked together, though Clark was something else entirely. Her partner, Agent Orange, seemed absolutely delighted each time they answered. The process warped time and space, opening a worm hole near the target. This allowed the agents to reach their target from any distance. It was not however, a natural mode of transit. The sensation was like being dropped and spun around so that the whole world seemed to tilt around you. Then upon arrival there was a violent jerk of the whole body to a stop. 

When Julia felt the call for help from Richard, she squared herself up and took a deep breath. She squeezed her eyes shut and flashed the thumbs up to Orange. The last thing she heard was Orange shouting “YEE HAW!!!” Then a loud bang and flash. That was where all the normalcy stopped. 

Julia felt the floor drop out and her head spun, then it didn’t stop. She felt her head flip back as she started to tumble. Head went over heels. What was going on? Heels went over head. Where was she? Head went over heels. Everything was disorienting until suddenly she thought she felt the familiar stop. That too was wrong. She felt like she was in an ocean being pulled back and forth by the waves. The pulls started slow, growing faster and faster until Julia wondered if her body would withstand it. Her limbs felt as though they would be ripped off and then as the pain felt unbearable, she released a pent up scream. Then, as suddenly as it began, it ended. She had hit ground. Perhaps the phrase hit the ground running would have been useful, Julia struck the ground and bounced five feet into a wall of corn. The corn snapped and Julia tumbled through the air. She slammed into the mud and ground to a stop. 

Julia lay in silence for a moment. The sound of footsteps running at her made Julia reach for her weapon. The smiling and dirty face of Agent Orange looked down into the path of Julia’s destruction. She reached down and pulled up her partner. 

“That was awesome! I can’t wait to do that on the way out!” Orange exclaimed and pumped her fist as she reached for her partner. Julia scowled and Orange began to speak again. “That is why you use a door way or a capsule to move into or out of dream space.” 

“I hope I never do that again.” Muttered Julia. Orange just shrugged. 

“I hope this is a trap.” Orange said gripping her gun. It was a long silver rifle that she slung over a shoulder. “I didn’t get a clean fight with Todersfurcht last time we met and I am hankering for a round two.” The beam of a flashlight around a hundred yards away cut into the sky. 

“So we need to get there.” Julia said pointing. Before she could ask how to get there Orange let loose a burst of orange flame from her gun. She walked straight towards the boy and vaporized the corn. When they got close, Orange stopped firing and pushed through the corn. 

Richard looked up at his two rescuers. They were young women dressed in black. They looked as though they had charged through the corn field and straight to him. They were covered in mud and had corn bits all over them. The red headed one had a long silver weapon and Richard could see his own reflection. His face had cuts and mud all over it, while his clothes were completely filthy. The brunette girl smiled at him. 

“Hey buddy, we’re hear to help. What’s your name?”

“Richard.” He replied. The girl sat down as his flash light flickered. Richard felt his breaths come faster and shallower. He felt his head swim. 

“Well those stars sure would be pretty tonight.” Julia said. Richard looked up at the sky. His flashlight seemed to be a lot brighter than he thought, he could hardly see any stars. The light vanished and Richard thought he could see a million pin pricks of light shining down on him. Then his own light was back and the night sky was black again. “Turn the light off and let’s look at the stars before we find our way out of here.” Richard shook his head furiously, but the lady laid a hand on his shoulder. “I’m right here.” Richard didn’t get a choice, his light went out and the ground was plunged to darkness. He let out a yelp and looked around. Then his eyes were drawn upwards. 

Now Smallfield is a smaller town. There aren’t massive man made sky scrapers that blot out the stars with their lights. Most nights the residences could look up and see a starry night, though they rarely took the time to do so. Even then they had almost certainly never seen a sky like Richard did. As he stared up he could see the twinkling of a billion stars strewn across the sky. But he could also see the brilliant glow of Venus above him. A comet screamed over head as they looked up. As his eyes adjusted he saw the clouds of dust and gas that hung in space. The clouds turned the night sky vermillion and orange and purple as he stared up. The sliver of moon hung low on the horizon and glowed orange as he stared. After seeing that the night didn’t seem so scary. The glow of the sky wiped away his memory of the terrible creature.

“I wonder if George can see this.” The red head girl shut her eyes and then bolted. “Where’d she go so fast?”

“To go get George I guess.” The other girl said. The sound of a twig breaking didn’t phase Richard. Richard didn’t mind the rustling or skittering noises either. The sight of a big dog rounding the corner was surprising but hardly concerning. It was a large black hound that stood almost as big as a small horse. The paws ended in sharp claws and the short fur didn’t hide its rippling muscle. The big bull dog like face had two glowing eyes and the mouth dripped saliva. Richard looked at the meandering beast and smiled.

“Sit boy.” He said and slapped the ground. The dog obliged and dropped down next to the boy. “Think he’s lost?” Richard asked as he stroked the dog. Julia shrugged. She had to wait for Orange. The dog was growing in size, not as the boy grew more frightened, but as he grew braver.

Suddenly the arm of the scarecrow swept down and smashed the back of Julia’s head. She saw stars as a cacophony of barks filled the air. The hound was up tall as the scarecrow and slammed a paw in the face. It’s mouth bit down on the shoulder and broke it. It whipped the monster to the ground and snarled. The scarecrow lunged with its remaining arm and the dog bit the stuffed chest. He shook his head like, well a dog, who had wrestled a toy from his master. The scarecrow was shredded and then was still. The hound barked and then howled up at the moon. Richard embraced the dog and laughed. Julia felt her teeth rattle as the dog’s tail thumped on the ground. Julia smiled before she heard the bang of Orange’s weapon. 

Penumbra: Star Light (Part 1 of 3)

The corn stretched high over Richard’s head. The Autumn twilight turned the heavens a burnt orange as the shadows danced in a gentle wind. The boys had only stopped for a moment when it happened. Richard had looked into the shadows to see what had made a noise in them. When he’d stood up his brother George was long gone. 

Richard stood in the field and adjusted his blue back pack. The hoot of an owl made his head snap in that direction. The corn seemed to close in as even the sun abandoned him. Richard inhaled and exhaled rapidly as his eyes widened in the dark. The maze had seemed to twist and wind for miles and miles when the boys had entered. There was no way he would find any way out. The snap of a twig sent him reeling. He fell backwards and fell in the mud. The thud of his backpack reminded him of something. He ripped the zipper open and pulled out his flashlight. He knelt with both knees in the mud as he tried to find the switch. His fingers found it and he screamed. 

A tall figure loomed above him. The flashlight revealing it’s out stretched arms and cocked head. He let the flashlight droop and saw that the terrifying figure had one wooden leg. He screamed again and tried to back up scattering the contents of his pack. 

“No no no…” He stammered as he tried to grab up his things. He clutched his illuminated lifeline in one hand, as he snagged at crackers and water packs with his other. Frantically he stuffed his muddy belongings back in his bag. As he went for a map that was caught in an evening breeze, he rose, stumbled, and fell face first in the mud. 

“Someone help.” 

By TKH Hamilton

Penumbra: Something New (part 3 of 3)

Ron’s choice was obvious. He flung his body towards the beast. The sword laughed with glee as Ron barreled at the creature. The beast faced him and screeched. Ron didn’t change course, didn’t slow, didn’t hesitate. To do that would be to die, and life was before him. Instead he let out a hoarse cry of his own, slamming his eyes shut. The sound of claws racing towards him joined the howl of wind, song of sword, and hammer of foot. Ron swung with all his momentum at where he figured the beast’s joint was. He felt his body jar as he struck and cleaved bone. He stumbled through the blow and rolled in the earth. 

“Get up Rookie!” Ron pushed up and gripped his blade. Green blood coated the blade as he raised it above the broken beast. The creature had lodged it’s claw in the street behind him, aiming for the frightful foe it figured it faced. Ron’s own blow had severed the creature’s femur, the fall had dropped the beast. It’s elbow had been twisted in the fall, and it struggled to rise as Ron walked up. 

This changes nothing. 

Ron planted his foot in the beast’s eye. 

You’re the same worthless nerd.

He raised his blade above his head.

You are-

The blade drowned out the beast, as Ron swung it down on the neck. The bone split and Ron felt his arms shake. He raised it and swung again and again. The blade, eventually, sawed the head off. His breath came out hoarse as he rested the blade on the ground. 

“Good work rookie.” The blade spoke. “I’ll make a fine warrior of you yet.”
Projected: T minus 75 days