Contract of the Dark

contract75x99Vote until March 31, 2014!

In the previous episode, readers voted for L Strider to accept a contract from Raphael Fantassa despite Raphael’s compromised position.

Episode 8

Roaring winds gush through the shattered window into the office building. Raphael Fantassa and L Strider stand stalk still. The mad scientist has asked the impossible of the elder karayan: to forge a dark contract between the two of them. Strider’s old crimson eyes look to the peaceful, yet lifeless face of his younger brother Gamma, who lies at his feet. While he sees Raphael as the reason for his brother’s demise, the possibility for the Gamma’s salvation keeps him weighing the options. While L struggles to find the answer, Raphael stands confidently, his mind racing through thousands of scenarios.

Knowing that time is crucial, Strider submits, “Alright, I will accept your contract.”

Raphael claps his hands in delight, “Excellent! Let’s hurry now, every second we waste, Omega is likely wreaking havoc.”

He turns to the door, but is stopped by Strider. The karayan holds him firmly by his wrist, preventing him from going anywhere. Raphael has a confounded look on his face while Strider takes his little brother’s lifeless body, and throws it over his shoulder. With one hand around the child’s body, he drags Raphael to the open window.

“What are you doing?” Raphael asks, struggling to break from the vice-like grip around his wrist. “We don’t have time; we need to get going now!”

“I am aware,” L remarks in a stone cold tone, “That’s why we are taking a shortcut to the bottom.

Before Raphael can ask for an explanation, Strider jumps through the window, taking the young scientist with him. Air screams past them as they plummet from the towering skyscraper. Below, the earth climbs up toward them as they accelerate toward the ground. Wrapped up in fear, Raphael grabs hold of Strider’s arm, clinging for dear life. He screams the rest of the way down. The karayan lands feet first on the concrete street, but the ground suddenly sinks beneath his foot. It stretches like a spring, gradually slowing him to a stop. Then slowly, the earth returns to its original shape.

Though it takes a moment, Raphael realizes they are not dead, and stops shouting for his life. Embarrassed, he lets go of Strider, planting his shaking legs on the ground next to him. L chuckles to himself, amused by the event.

“P-Please warn me next time,” Fantassa requests, his whole body quivering from the shocking dive. “I don’t think my heart—.”

Thunderous cries of the heavens drown out his voice. Overhead, clouds of crimson fill the starry sky, casting everything below in a blood glow. Rumbling of thunder roars like a ravenous beast throughout the city, causing the buildings to quake in fear of the power that engulfs New York. Lightning strikes the earth, which seems to awaken millions of the maddening eyes. The violet stares surround Strider and Raphael as they appear throughout the sky, on every building, and the ground on which they stand.

Strider can feel the chilling aura of the nightmarish illusion that lingers in the air, sending a shiver up his spine, “So this is what Nightmare Fuel is truly capable of.”

“There’s no time to gawk,” Raphael spouts, grabbing L by the shoulder. “We need to get to my facilities immediately.”

Turning to escape through the streets, they come face to face with another product of Omega’s terrifying powers. Darkness spews from the earth, blanketing the ground in a blackened fog, as something crawls through the veil. A sickening hissing shriek pierces through the rumbling skies, shattering the windows that catch the energetic frequency. Raphael and Strider stand frozen as a pair of claws reaches out from the black. Out of the veil steps an enormous scorpion-like monstrosity. Behind the jagged pincers across its mouth is a gaping maw filled with rows upon rows of razor-sharp teeth. Rather than a pair of crab-like claws, it has a series of six, each above the legs that carry it. Its body is covered in pulsating gobs of darkness, each with dozens of swirling violet eyes.

Raphael appears socked by the sight of such a beast, “I hope that is an illusion…”

“It’s not,” Strider breaks the news, “That’s Beta’s power. He can spawn thousands of those beasts from his body. However, they were not that big…”

The beast’s stinger strikes the ground between them as both avoid a horrifying death. Each watches as the scorpion’s venom corrodes the ground, creating a bottomless chasm in mere seconds. Letting out another ear-shattering screech, the monster charges; looking at Strider and Fantassa as its next meal. The elder karayan is forced to defend, handing Gamma’s body over to Raphael. He meets the creature head on, grabbing hold of its pincers. Digging his heel into the concrete, he manages to stop the scorpion in its tracks. Its mouth of endless fangs chomp at nothing but air. L’s head keeps the beast at bay, while avoiding having his head bitten off his shoulders.

Even with the incredible strength of a karayan, the monster begins to overpower, its fangs inching closer to devouring him. He can feel the sickening breath of the beast blowing against his scalp, its foul-smelling drool dripping onto his cheek. Just as it is about to have its meal, the beast suddenly rears back with a painful screech. Strider lets go of the pincers before he is thrown along with the thrashing scorpion. More shocked than relieved, he looks upwards to find the little girl, Rune, riding the monster like a bucking bronco. She holds tightly to a sword driven into its head.

“Rune,” L Strider barks like a panicked father, “What are you doing here?”

Despite his best efforts, he cannot shout over the shrieks of the scorpion. He tries to intervene, but is knocked off-balance, as a figure dashes past him. As he gets his footing back, he sees Aaron Fellmind running straight for the monstrosity. The young karayan dashes directly underneath the belly of the beast. Leaping skywards, he slams his fist into abdomen of the creature with a powerful uppercut. When his fist collides, a loud bang sound erupts from his fist, sounding as if a canon had gone off. An electric pulse courses through the monster, stunning it. The sheer shock gives Aaron a few seconds to escape from underneath, as the scorpion collapses. It twitches once or twice, but does not get up again.

Rune pulls her sword out of the beast’s head, and joins her fellow youth on the ground. The pair approaches Strider casually, even though he appears rather crossed.

“Are you two insane?” he scolds, “You could’ve been killed.”

“Yeah, but we weren’t,” Rune points out.

“And we saved your life,” Aaron adds.

L Strider turns red, wishing to shout at the both of them for their recklessness, but he cannot truly be mad at them. After all, they did just save him from being devoured. He steps forward, and wraps his arms around the two of them like a proud parent.

“Please try not to do anything that reckless again,” he says with a sigh of relief.

Their touching moment is short-lived, as a chorus of high-pitched shrieks fills the air. All around them dark fog materializes, carrying with them the monstrous scorpions. In a matter of minutes, the group is surrounded by an army of the vicious beasts. Their numbers are far greater than anything imaginable. Raphael steps before the group, carrying Gamma the best he can.

“We need to get out of here now!” he barks over the shrill squeals of the scorpions. “My research facility is just a few blocks away.”

Handing Gamma over to Strider, Fantassa runs with everything his legs can do. The others follow suit, as the beastly army sets their thousands of eyes on them. It becomes a chase for survival, with death nipping at their heels. While Raphael leads the way, Aaron and Rune follow behind, ready to fend off any beasts. L Strider takes up the rear, creating obstacles, but none seem to slow them down.

Luckily, their destination is close, as Raphael turns the corner, stopping before a large metal door with a keypad. As the flood of beasts close in around them, he begins entering a series of numbers to open the mechanical locks. The hissing grows louder as the doors finally open. Everyone leaps through the opening, as the army storms for the open doorway. Raphael scrambles to the door and hits the button to close it. It slams shut just as the monsters are about to devour them. On the other side of the ten ton metal door, they can hear the scraping of the claws and ravenous hissing.

With a moment for peace, Fantassa leads the group of karayans through the pristine facility. The insides of the building appear to be taken from a science fiction story. Everything is clean and white, with strange machines decorating the walls. While the century old karayans stare in awe at the technology, Raphael takes several sharp turns in the corridor, before coming across a rather open room. The young scientist strolls over to a metal table off to the one side of the room, where a large container sits filled with a deep red liquid.

“What is that?” Aaron asks, as he watches Raphael fiddle with a few devices.

“I have been siphoning Gamma’s blood for some time,” he answers coldly, busily working. “It was a precaution if his body rejected human blood.”

Strider’s face brightens with hope, “So you are going to use his own blood to bring him back?”

“No,” Raphael says flat-out.

“No?” Strider says shocked. “But you promised—”

“I did promise I would save Gamma,” Raphael cuts L off. A hush falls over the room, until Fantassa lets out a sighing breath. “We will need his power to stop Omega. Even with Gamma revived, he will be in no shape to battle a super powered karayan. Instead, we will transfuse Gamma’s blood into one of us. The person will gain the power of Nightmare Fuel, but might also go mad.”

“How do we choose who?” Rune asks, stepping into the conversation.

“We don’t,” Raphael answers, looking to Strider, “You do…”

“Me?” L Strider questions, “Why me?”

“This is our contract,” the young scientist says with a smirk. “You understand your little brother’s power better than anyone. Only you can make the wisest choice of which of us will undergo the transfusion.”

With his old crimson eyes, he looks to everyone in the room, before saying, “Very well…”    Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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