I left off with those four proxies getting out of the cars. One of them was Javert; I didn’t recognize the other three. New faces; not anyone who had been part of Javert’s police force. Javert was in his black police uniform, but the others were dressed in regular street clothes. Let’s call these three Shaggy, Velma, and Scooby, because they reminded me of old cartoon characters. Okay, Scooby wasn’t a dog, but he was hairy enough that he could be called one. Javert led them to the front entrance, where Setoth had drawn his sigils in chalk. It was hard to tell from as high up as I was, but I’m pretty sure Javert told some kind of joke at the symbols expense before just stepping over it. I expected something to happen, something dramatic. But there was nothing. No bright flash of light, or ominous thunder, or anything. He stepped over the thing, like it was just lines of chalk.
Once they were inside…. Well, that was when the fun would begin. I’d spent hours memorizing the place, and knew all the spots where I could observe them secretly, so I could track their progress.
The four drew guns and split up (I could imagine Javert saying, “Alright gang, let’s split up!” followed by one of the proxies, probably Shaggy, saying something similar to “Zoinks!”). Javert, Velma and Scooby went straight for the stairs to the second floor, while Shaggy looked around the first.
Shaggy was the first to find one of my traps. A rope had been stretched across a doorframe, roughly at the level of the ankles. Shaggy saw it just before he tripped on the rope. Oh, that grin which appeared on his face; so full of pride at himself for seeing such an obvious trap, and amusement at the cartoonish nature of it. He was so satisfied in that small victory, that he didn’t notice me come up from behind until I was smashing his head in with my sword. Made sure he was dead; didn’t stop hitting until I saw brains.
Then I ran up to the second floor, which Velma and Scooby were searching. I assumed Javert had gone on ahead further up. The two on that floor saw me as I was running to the stairs, and Velma almost shot me in the face. I’ve got a little cut across my left ear where the bullet grazed by. They chased after me, following me up the stairs. When I reached the landing on the third floor, I stopped. Velma was halfway up the stairs, while Scooby was lagging behind. The stairs were narrow; only enough room for one person to go up at a time. Less dodging space for them. On the third floor landing, I had placed a barrel of cement (that thing was bloody hard to drag up three stories, I’ll have you know), which I rolled down the stairs towards Velma. Yeah, “Oho, how amusingly cartoonic, rolling a barrel down the stairs to attack someone!” You know what happens when a heavy barrel hits you in the ribs, knocks you down two flights of concrete stairs, and then crushes your head between it and the concrete wall on the first floor? The mess which Velma left was worse than Shaggy’s.
Tragically, Scooby proved to be surprisingly dexterous, and was able to move out of the way of the rolling barrel of doom. Once that threat had passed, he came charging up those stairs. He proceeded to frantically search the third floor, trying to find me. His attention was caught by movement he saw near an open window. Scooby quickly ran over to investigate, but found it to just be coat which had been nailed to the window frame, flapping in the breeze. Before he could turn from the jacket, I was behind him. I grabbed his right arm with both hands, and broke it at the elbow, making him drop his gun. Then I threw him out the window. Falling from three stories down into hard, unforgiving rubble…. Scooby could be called lucky, as it didn’t appear to kill him instantly. Still, based on his screams of pain, I doubt he’d have lived much longer. I grabbed the gun he’d dropped, and ran up the stairs.
Which just left Javert. The warm up was over, and the real show was about to begin.
The fourth floor was when the shoddy nature of the building’s construction began to really show; holes in the floors/walls, exposed piping, tools left lying around…. They hadn’t even finished making the stairs to the fifth floor, where Setoth was. You needed to use a ladder to reach it. When I reached the fourth floor, I came up just in time to see Javert climbing the ladder. I began to run after him, when I heard an inhuman shriek echo through the building. Then Porfiry appeared, out of nowhere, in the middle of the fourth floor.
He looked much the same as last time. Eyes gouged out, face burned, arm twisted, ribcage torn open to reveal the organs underneath…. I got only a few seconds to experience surprise before he charged at me. Like any sane person, I started shooting at him with the gun I’d taken from Scooby. Most of my shots went wild; I did manage to land two bullets in his chest, and hit him in the face when I threw the gun at him after running out of ammo. None of it seemed to bother him. He reached to strangle me, but I grabbed his arm and threw him onto his back. Pulled out my sword and swung it down at him, but he rolled aside and leapt back up. Charged at me again; I tried to knock him aside with my sword, but he ignored the blow and scratched at my face. The nails dug pretty deep, going straight across, barely missing my eyes. The second time he tried to claw at me, I bit the hand he was using. God, zombie Porfiry tastes awful. Succeeded in biting off three of his fingers, and then hit him in the eye with the hilt of my sword to force him to back off. Let’s see you claw out my eyes when you don’t have any fingers left on your hands….
As he always does, Porfiry launched another charge, tackling me into a concrete pillar. That left me dazed for a few seconds, during which time he bit into my right shoulder. Hurt like hell. I had to pull his face off of me, and then slammed it into the pillar repeatedly. Completely destroyed his nose, and part of his cheek bones, before he elbowed me in the gut hard enough to make me let go. Which was followed immediately afterward by him grabbing my throat with one hand, and squeezing. I tried breaking his arm, but even after I heard the bone snap, he kept squeezing. My vision started to go dark, as I couldn’t bring any oxygen into my lungs. I grabbed two of the exposed ribs poking out his side, and pulled on them. Kept pulling until I heard them snap; his grip loosened involuntarily then, just slightly, but enough for me to break free.
If I lived in a perfect world, I’d have been given the opportunity to catch my breath and massage the bruises I’d just gotten along my throat. However, I don’t live in a perfect world. Porfiry tried to pounce on me to resume the strangling; I kicked him in the chest and threw him over me, right through a hole in the flooring. When I looked down it to see what happened to Porfiry, he was lying on the ground, both legs broken, trying to pull himself along the floor. His face turned up towards me…. I don’t know how he can see with his eyes gouged out, but somehow he was looking at me…. And he screamed that high pitched, impossible shriek. I grabbed a large piece of masonry that was on the floor and pelted it at his head; it cracked the skull open. I don’t even know if that killed him; his body was still twitching on the floor, even as the brains leaked out of his skull. But at least it meant he wasn’t fighting.
And so, bleeding, exhausted, and in pain, I climbed up the ladder to confront Javert.
The fifth floor was the top of the building, and the least finished in terms of construction. Setoth was sitting in the center, surrounded by his magickal whatevers. Standing next to him, looking at the sigils with apparent curiosity, was Javert. He didn’t face me when I came up, but in spite of my attempts to be sneaky, could tell I was there.
Javert: “I suppose it’s a failing on my part. Even when He tells me to do so, I find myself unable to kill a man who cannot defend himself. And yet I must prevent his plan from succeeding. I wonder what would happen if I just tried to scuff out these symbols around him?”
Arkady: “I dunno, maybe he’d explode or something?” I have no idea what would actually happen, but I’m under the impression that it would be very, very bad.
J: “A jest. Very typical of you.” He finally faced me. “You know, Arkady, while my mission here is to stop this man from stealing a member of His kingdom, you are the real reason I have come. I’ve been waiting for a chance to fight you for a long time. A real fight this time; no outside interferences, no witnesses to avoid, just a battle to the end.”
A: “Good. We’re thinking the same thing.”
J: He pulled out his gun, looked at it with amusement for a moment, and then threw it out a window. “Let’s make this fair then?”
I immediately came to the conclusion that fighting fair is for chumps, and charged at him with my sword. He caught the swing with one hand. God I wish this thing had a blade on it. With his free hand, he punched me in the gut. Hard.
J: “I’ve been thinking about your reference to Heart of Darkness which you made. When you wrote that, did you stop to consider that Kurtz did not wish to be rescued?”
The sword was pulled out of my hands and throw aside. Javert then kicked me in the chest, knocking me back several feet.
A: I had to pant for breath a bit. Javert was polite enough to let me do so. “Fine, how about Orpheus descending into the underworld to save Eurydice?” I ran forward and swung at him.
J: After catching my fist and kneeing me in the chest “Do you really have such little confidence in your comrades that you would compare them to a myth where the hero failed?”
A: “Shut up, it was the first thing that came to mind!” This time, I did succeed in hitting him, punching him in the face. Which would have been a greater accomplishment had he not immediately struck back, knocking me to the ground.
J: “You’re putting up much less of a fight than I expected. Did Porfiry really give you that much trouble? I’m starting to wonder if you even beat him, or if you only made it up here after running away in fear.”
A: “Poor Porfiry’s had an accident.” I grabbed Javert’s leg, and pulled, causing him to fall to the ground. “SO MAY YOU ALL.”
Now I had the initiative. Before he could stand back up, I brought my foot down onto his head.
A: “Javert, Javert! You make the world by whispers, second by second. Are you blind to that? Whether you make it a grave or garden of roses is not the point. Feel the floor: is it not hard” I brought my foot down on his head again. “Hard, yes! Observe the hardness, write it down in careful runes. Now, sing of floors! Sing!”
When I tried to hit him a third time, he rolled aside, quickly stood up, and punched me in the face twice. Got a bloody nose from that.
J: “I dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further. Only a few men could be saved in the whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined to found a new race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no one had seen these men, no one had heard their words and their voices.”
A: “Don’t you quote Dosteyevsky at me!” I tried to tackle him, but he grabbed me, flipped me over his shoulder, and threw me at a wall.
J: “If you are a man, Arkady, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent. The command of the old despotisms was Thou Shalt Not. The command of the totalitarians was Thou Shalt. Our command is Thou Art. There shall only be loyalty to He that Is.”
A: I was still lying against the wall, trying to recover.
“Here at least
we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
J: “Milton?” He kicked me in the chest as I tried to get up. “I thought you would be better than something that obvious. I wonder, what would you think if you could see the wickedness and sin which you live in?”
A: “I would much rather prefer to be Lord Henry than Lord Gray.”
J: He seemed surprised for a moment. A rare moment. I wish I had a camera so I could remember it. “I wasn’t aware that you had read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. We didn’t find a copy of it when we searched your apartment.”
A: “Got it from the St. Edwards Library here. You think I’m going to let being a fugitive on the run from your boss cut into my reading time?”
J: He laughed, cheerfully, almost as a friend would. “Good man! But enough of this. You’ve lost. And while I am not allowed to kill you….”He kicked me in the face, leaving me dazed. Before I could react, Javert grabbed my left arm, twisted, and pulled. I could feel the joint popping out of the socket…. Yeah, I screamed in pain. There isn’t anyone who wouldn’t have. “…. You don’t need to be wholly intact. Besides, you’re right handed. You don’t need your left arm to serve Him.”
A: In between gasps of pain
“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!”
J: “Keep shouting your defiance. But now I must finish my task.”
He turned towards where Setoth should have been…. But there was no Setoth there. The circle of chalk was empty.
Suddenly, Setoth jumped out from the shadows, and hit Javert in the face with my sword. When Setoth tried for another swing, Javert grabbed Setoth’s wrist and twisted. Setoth screamed in pain, but that gave me a chance. Using my uninjured arm, I pulled myself up, and then charged him. I hit him in the back with my good shoulder; Javert turned around angrily to fight me, but in that time, Setoth struck him with the sword. The two of us began to attack Javert with everything we had in us. Javert struck back against us many times, punches, kicks, grapples, but we kept pressing him backwards. Whenever he gained the advantage over one of us, the other would leap forward and press Javert back.
Soon, he was at the edge of the building. There was a hole in the wall behind him, leaving nothing between Javert and a five story drop. Setoth and I were exhausted; both of us were badly beat up, and my dislocated shoulder was roaring in agony. We prepared for a final charge, to throw him over….
Javert looked back, into the dark drop. Then a small smile spread on his face. Javert took one step backwards, and fell down into the darkness. Setoth and I ran to the edge to see his fall, but the night hid it from us.
We left the building soon. Setoth said that something had forced him out of the Astral Plane, and he couldn’t get back in. Kal had been left on his own in there. I’m not sure how that’s going to turn out, him on his own in that place.
My arm’s been popped back into place, but it still hurts like hell. It might take a while to recover.
Now all we can do is wait to see if word comes back from Kal.