Chapter XXXII

The room was silent. Roderigo sat in his chair, his hands folded under his chin, staring at the White Flame as it rested on the coffee table. Even with sword inside its scabbard, he could see heat shimmer in the air above it. For a moment, Roderigo wondered why the sword didn’t burn the table, but that line of thought gave way to what Fiona had just told them.

     He turned his gaze toward the others. Pepper was alone, standing by the kitchen door and nursing a can of Vanilla Blitz. Carlton sat on the arm of the couch, eyeing his weapon cache. Steven was clearly uneasy, and his eyes darted nervously around the room. The entire room seemed tense, and was filled with a foreboding atmosphere that was steadily worsening. When it became unbearable, it was Carter who broke the silence.

     “Twitch?” he asked, attempting to maintain a stoic facade. It was betrayed by the hint of dread in his tone.

     “Yes,” Fiona said. “And she knows that I know.”

     “How?” Carlton asked.

     “A look,” Jacob said. “A change in her heart rate, a deepening of her breath, anything really. And it could be so subtle that none of us would pick it up. Her mind isn’t limited the way ours is…. She designed us. She’s probably more familiar with how we work than we could ever hope to be, and that’s assuming she can’t read our minds.”

     “That’s a terrifying thought,” Steven said. “A god that eats people, reading minds…. Yeah, I really hope not.”

     “We should kill her,” Pepper said. The others stared in disbelief. “It’s her, or the whole world, right? It’s not technically murder, killing a god… and honestly, I’d rather have life in prison than see everyone I know die.”

     “Bad idea,” Roderigo replied. “You’re talking about killing a god, one who we know is capable of wiping out the planet on a moment’s notice. Nothing we do could take her by surprise. If we go after her, she will kill us without breaking a sweat.”

     “You’re immortal,” Pepper said. “You can’t die.”

     “We don’t know that for sure,” Roderigo said. “And If that’s the case, then it stands to reason that she can’t either. Either way, you can, and considering what we know now, are you looking forward to that? Besides, we have a more pressing issue: Ash and Sabbath are living alone, with her. We need to get them out of that house before she turns on them.”

     “That won’t be easy,” Carter said. “He thinks he’s her father… and technically, he’s right. He won’t leave her behind without a good reason. If we tell him what we know, it will just convince him that we’re delusional. Not even my reputation would would help us.”

     Pepper tossed her can in the trash. “What about your sword?” she asked. Carter rubbed his eyes in frustration. “You got it for a reason. Use it to take the bitch out.”

     “You mean the Saloi-Asyai?” Jacob asked, motioning toward the weapon. “It can’t do that. It’s a weapon of containment–a seal with a blade. The best we can hope for is to trap her inside, and even then the wielder would need a great deal of power to get the task done. We have no reason to believe Roderigo is capable of that.”

     “I really don’t think killing her is the solution anyway,” Carlton said. All eyes turned to him. “I mean, none of us are close to being on her level. Not even Rod–remember how quickly Blades took him out? Besides, there’s that… thing in the pictures to deal with. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s coming here. That creature is going to problem–we should deal with it first, and then take care of Blades afterward. We can discuss what to do about Dheania once they’re out of the picture.”

     “Hell no,” Pepper sneered. “There’s no fucking way we’re going to take that thing out. Besides, you do remember that the prophecy said that the ‘kings of the ocean’ will take care of it, right?” Pepper asked. “Let the Coast Guard–or better yet, the Navy–handle it. They fit the prophecy better than anyone.”

     “We want to avoid fulfilling that prophecy,” replied Roderigo. “And even if you convinced them it exists, it would just be an animal to them. They won’t consider it a threat until it’s racked up a confirmed body count.”

     Carter leaned in. “He’s right. The fact is, we’re going to have to take on Blades ourselves no matter what. Look at wha. There’s no doubt we’ll have to kill Blades ourselves, so that part is unavoidable. But we can try to take anything resembling these kings of the sea out of the equation.” He grabbed a glass and a decanter off a nearby table, and poured himself a drink. “Still, it’s a bad idea either way. I doubt we can get our hands on anything powerful enough to kill that thing, even if we empty our bank accounts.”

     “There’s always slugs,” Carlton said. “I don’t mean your typical fosters or rifled slugs. I’m talking Russian tandems. Imagine a dumbbell-shaped chunk of solid steel weighing a little over an ounce, traveling at about fourteen-hundred feet per second. Those things will go through a brick wall, and then some. They don’t sell them over here yet, but they’re not illegal either; they’re hunting rounds, so they’re fair game for import. A shop I frequent in Miami orders from the manufacturer, and they always have a few boxes on hand. They don’t really advertise it since there’s not a lot of use for them around there, but they’ll sell them in a heartbeat if you ask.”

     “That might work,” Carter said. “But I doubt you’d have much luck shooting into the water. My guess is that you’d have to get it to breach the surface for a clean shot. Something that big is going to create a lot of waves–big ones. We’ll need need you at helm to stand a chance.””

     “I figured you and Steven could do the shooting,” Carlton said.

     “Why not Rod?” Pepper asked. “He’s trained for watercraft combat, and he knows how to handle heavy weapons. Steven doesn’t have any experience with that kind of recoil, and Grandpa has arthritis. At least with Roderigo, you could limit the loss of life.”

     “That’s definitely true,” Carlton said, “but I think we’d have better luck if we left Roderigo to deal with Ash. Since we’ve established that what we’ll be telling his is… unbelievable, then we’ll need proof. And for that, we need someone who can pull off a miracle.” Carlton leaned back against the wall, propping his legs up on the couch. “As for Carter, there’s a few things about him you and Fiona don’t know. I think he can handle a few blows to the shoulder, at least better than the rest of us can.”

     Carter closed his eyes halfway and leaned back in his chair. He gave a silent, solitary nod of agreement before resting his temple on his knuckles. He wasn’t sure how Carlton found out about his time in Brazil, but at the moment it didn’t matter.

     “And Steven?” Pepper replied. “I know Steven can shoot, but you’re talking at least fifty pounds of recoil with that round. That’s enough to dislocate a person’s shoulder. You won’t be able to teach him how to handle that overnight.”

     “I don’t intend to,” Carlton said. “Steven’s more than comfortable with a rifle. We can always get our hands on some surplus steel-core ammo and pair it with the Garand. Those rounds can blow a hole in an engine block, so they’ll be able to do some serious damage. If nothing else, he can just stick to the more obvious spots, and make potshots at the throat and eye.”
     “Even then,” Pepper said, “if we do kill them, they’re just harrows. They’re probably easy for her to replace. When we try to take her on, she’ll just kill us. And we know what happens afterward.”

     “So what?” Steven asked. “What if all we do is kill a couple of monsters and die? We’ve known all our lives that our day was coming–none of this changes that. We owe it to ourselves to make some kind of noise. Maybe if we’re lucky, someone higher up on the food chain might take notice.”

     There was a moment of silence as the group considered Carlton’s idea. As Carlton placed a cigarette in his mouth, he continued to smile as the room that was once filled with tension began to lighten once more. Soon the silence was broken. Roderigo spoke up, and–with a faintly ironic lilt–said, “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”

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1 Comment

  1. Carcharocles

    Tandem rounds had been around a few years in 2010, but they were only sold in Russia. The round got its name due to it originally having two steel balls of shot, but sometime between 2008 and 2010 they switched to a flat nose (wadcutter) slug. It’s meant for hunting in thick brush–particularly in areas where rifles are banned, or against targets like boar which require a lot of power and penetration–but outside that it has limited use. Its inability to expand makes it a pretty poor wilderness defense round, and hunting in more open or urban areas is a bad idea for obvious reasons.

    That said, what’s being described here isn’t strictly a tandem. It’s the same concept though–a high velocity, heavy, flat-nosed steel round designed to cut through brush and remain lethal. There are several rounds very similar to this one in real life, and they all come from either Russia itself or the former Communist Bloc; since rifles are hard to come by in those areas and shotguns aren’t, manufacturers had a lot of incentive to fill the gap.

    And a fun fact on the M2 .30-06 ammo: as a rifle round, it is perfectly legal to own. Good luck finding it though–pretty much all that’s left is the occasional box of WWII surplus ammo. Not that most people need a round like that–they’re not really suited for most civilian purposes.

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