Friday, March 25, 2011

Chapter 50

The Face of the Enemy

          Callie sent half the stakes before her flying toward the Morrtog as it galloped on all fours toward them.
Babbidaz was ready for them this time. He turned on a dime and jumped onto a tree. Callie tried to grab hold of him, with her power, but there was an aspect of metaphysical slipperiness to him, and she found that she could not affect him directly in any way.
Mike threw a sekari at him. Babbidaz dodged it, and hopped onto another tree.
“Quick mother, innit?” said Jon.
The sekari hit the tree Babbidaz had just departed, and cut it in half. As the top half fell, Callie caught it with her mind, and swung it at Babbidaz, like a giant club in an invisible hand. With acrobatic agility, Babbidaz did a flip over the tree---and right into Mike’s next sphere.
“Not quick enough!!” Mike yelled.
The sekari exploded Babbidaz back and upwards. 
Callie swung the tree top like a bat once more, and connected with Mike’s pitch. Babbidaz got whacked into a rolling tumble to the ground.
Callie then threw the tree top at Babbidaz. He managed to avoid getting hit by jumping over it, but wasn’t as fast as last time; he was tripped by one of the limbs, and found himself chin to the ground once more.
He got up fast, in time to dodge another of Mike’s sekari.
Callie rocketed her remaining stakes at him.
Babbidaz sprung into a nimble forward somersault. As he vaulted over the stakes, he grabbed one with each hand in mid-air, and upon landing, tossed them twirling back at Callie.
Two of Mike’s sekari rendered the stakes into splinters. A necessary distraction, but a distraction nonetheless; as Babbidaz had jumped, and now landed among them.
Callie and Jon were smacked aside like afterthoughts.
The Morrtog grabbed Mike by the neck, and disappeared up into the treetops with him.
“NO!” Callie yelled, and levitated herself up after them; leaving Jon and his spear all alone below.
I hope this ends well, he thought.

“You’re my main problem!” Babbidaz said to Mike as he took him to a high limb, “Without you, the others will be easy pickings! Owwm! Eyowwmm! Eyowwmm!”
        Babbidaz squeezed hard on Mike’s neck to choke the life out of him. Mike poured Voss Vedu’un energy into his arms and hands, grabbed Babbidaz’s wrists, and pulled them loose. The Morrtog’s good eye boggled as the puny child, whose physical strength should have been akin to a wet noodle compared to his, pulled his hands away from his neck.
        Callie whooshed up from below, trancing eyes at full blast, and stopped at eye level with Babbidaz.
Their eyes met, and Callie initiated the Malignium.
Babbidaz dropped Mike, and Mike fell, but managed to grab hold of the limb on which the Morrtog stood.
What the hell is she DOING?! Mike thought. After warning HIM not to try to mind-read the Morrtog, here she was, doing the same damn thing; risking her mind and life doing it.
She’s trying to save YOUR worthless hide, twit! came the answer from within. As always, this self-loathing aspect of his psyche spoke to him in his father’s caustic voice.
Mike hoped she’d win, and soon; his arms were getting tired.

Callie entered the Morrtog’s mind with suspicious ease. Way too much ease, as it turned out. Before she could do anything, the mental equivalent of fangs bit deep into her mind, and began to drag her in deeper.
Callie lost control of her levitation, and began to sink; but Babbidaz caught her by the arms, and kept her at eye level.
Mike looked up and saw this happen.
Uh oh! He thought, NOT a good sign!

As Callie's mind writhed helpless under foot, the Morrtog’s laughter boomed painfully within her skull.
“Can you defend against a Ma’jai in your head, jackass?” Mike’s voice barged in. 
To Callie, it was like the voice of salvation.
Mike’s mind attacked Babbidaz’s with a ferocity and power the Morrtog was not ready for, and he retreated, releasing Callie.
Only now, both Longstreets attacked him in tandem.
Round and round the three minds battled. 
Hard fought the struggle was, and vicious. They cut him deep, and he slashed back at them with savage fury.
The girl tired first, and to the Morrtog’s relief, she backed out of the fray. But the boy was unflagging; his infuriating tenacity and ceaseless Ma’jai strength wore Babbidaz down. Until at last, the Morrtog’s mind was held down as helpless as it had held Callie moments ago.
“CALLIE! TAKE HIM!” Mike said, and she knew what to do.
She started the Malignium again; and this time, she thought, Babbidaz would not be able to stop it.
She drunk in Babbidaz, in big mental gulps. 
Mike could see the exponential increase in her power.
Judging that she could take over from here, he retracted his mind from the Morrtog’s, and reconnected to his own body; which was not pleasant. His arms hurt like hell, and his fingers were numb; he had but a few seconds of hold left in him.
He called forth the Voss Vedu’un into his hands, arms, and shoulder. Relief flowed through him as renewed strength ebbed back into tired muscles and flesh.
He retightened his grip on the tree limb, and looked up.
Callie had retaken control of her levitation at some point, and the Morrtogs hands were at his sides.
At least they had been. Only know, Mike saw Babbidaz move his left arm slowly back, and the hand start to rise.
The mind of a Morrtog is most unique. As Babbbidaz’s lay seemingly helpless under the thrall of Callie’s Malignium; a primal and unseen portion of it had branched off, in a last desperate attempt to retake control of the situation. The attempt cost him dearly, but he was able to access movement of his left arm. Now he pulled it back, so he could plunge his talons into the girl’s belly, and rip out her intestines.
There was no time to send Callie a warning, or to try to take control of the Morrtog’s body, before the killing blow. And a sekari at this close range might startle or hurt Callie, and cause her to fall.
Instead, Mike grabbed the Morrtog’s ankle with one, then the other, hand. Babbidaz was pulled off balance, his foot slipped off the limb, and the two of them fell.
Startled by the sudden breaking of the mental link, Callie lost control, and fell after them.
Below, Jon looked up and saw the three figures falling to what would be (for at least two of those figures) a bone-breaking height.
“Oh shig.” he said, and got the hell out of the way.

Callie’s mind snapped back to itself, confused; not knowing what had happened, or why she was falling. She could see, in the slow-motion with which the mind deals with disastrous and fast-moving events, Mike and Babbidaz tumbling below; as well as the ground rushing towards them, eager to crush their bones.
Three-fourths of the way down, she managed to reassert her levitation, and grabbed Mike a second later.
From below, Jon saw Callie and Mike slow to a stop in midair.
Babbidaz, on the other hand, hit the ground like a sack of bricks.
Callie lost her grip, though; and the two fell the rest of the way three seconds later. Their landing, while not a happy one, was nonetheless a less painful one than Babbidaz’s.
Ever the die-hard, however; Babbidaz was the first to rise.
From behind the Morrtog, Jon saw his chance.
He ran up to the Morrtog and, with all his strength, jabbed his spear into the small of it’s back as deep as it would go. The spear broke off at the tip, and Jon lost his balance and fell to the side.
Babbidaz arched his back and let out a roar of pain.
Mike saw his opportunity, and took it. He hurled a small sekari straight into the Morrtog’s open mouth, the explosive content of which blew the top half of Babbidaz’s head clean off, and spinning into the air.
The Morrtog’s body collapsed, never to rise again. The top of his head hit the dirt seconds later, a bit further off; eye wide open and surprised.
“That was for Edward, you SHANK!!” Jon shouted, as he kicked the corpse and spat on it.
Mike and Callie looked at him, then each other, and began to laugh; Jon joined them.
Callie then smacked Mike on the back of his head with her hand.
“OWWW! What?!” Mike said.
“WHY did you do THAT?” she gestured toward the tree-limb they had just vacated moments ago, “And WHY didn’t you warn me you were gonna do that?! I almost didn’t catch us in time!”
Rather than try to explain, Mike sent into her mind the image of Babbidaz about to gut her while she floated before him, oblivious.
“Oh,” she said, “I see. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” Mike said, “I admit I didn’t think that through; but there was no time. I had to do something.”
“So what happened up there?” Jon asked.
“Just a minor difference of opinion.” Mike said, standing up, “It wanted us dead. 
“We said no.” Callie added. 
“I’m glad you won the debate.” Jon said.
Callie, still sitting, put a trembling hand to her head.
“Are you okay, Callie?” Jon asked, “You look nauseated.”
“It was that Malignium with Babbidaz.” she said.
“The Morrtog.” Mike said, “Callie brain-drained him.”
“It lasted only several seconds, but the raw POWER that I got from it in that time was incredible. I’m juiced up, but also sickened. Kinda like overeating on something you like until it makes you wanna puke.”
“Are you gonna need a privacy moment?” Mike asked.
“Nah, I can handle it.” she said, and stood up.
“Alright then, let’s go.” Mike said, walking in the direction Babbidaz had arrived from, “We’re one down, one to go.”

Charles Longstreet fully expected to see Babbidaz show up with the carcasses of his children, draped over his shoulders.
It was the surety of this visual image becoming reality that allowed him to wait as long as he had without submitting to worry; despite his deteriorating condition.
But that wasn’t what happened.
Incredibly, Mike and Callie (as well as some unknown boy) appeared out of nowhere, and caught him by surprise.
“How did you---?!!” was all Longstreet managed to get out, before he felt his brain come under the grip of an ice cold wrench.
Unable to move or speak, he realized that Mike was the wrench.
“Hello dad,” Mike said, “I’ll be just a moment. There are things I need to know; things I need to see for myself.”
Mike delved past his father’s surface thoughts, and went deep into his earliest memories.
He saw…
His father’s childhood, the only son of Terren and Jade Longstreet, growing up in Noah’s Oak, New Heedol; in the very same house Mike himself, and Callie, would later run away from.
A good son of kind parents, Charles nonetheless yearned to break free of small town life, and go live in a big city: Cathim, Mirridin, perhaps even Idus Alth, to find his destiny. At the age of eighteen, he purchased a used green station wagon (it was cheap, and all he could afford), and left home soon after. He spent some time in Metromax, and then moved on to Cathim. In Cathim he found a good job, and was happy there, living on his own. Then, in early 3636, he met Elizabeth Shale, and the two were soon married. Late in the year came the birth of their first child, Michael. Two years later, they had a daughter: Callendra. The family had another happy and blissful three years. Then, in 3642, it all came to a crashing stop.
Charles Longstreet’s destiny had at last found him.
And it was there, through the medium of his father’s memories, that Mike finally got a look at the face of his and Callie’s real enemy: Araboam Sinestri.      

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