Collision over Siberia
aktarian
On 10. February 2009 inactive Russian Kosmos 2251 and US Iridium 33 communication satellites collide over Taymyr peninsula, northern Russia. The collision causes their reactors to explode and combined effect crating a disruption in time fabric. As a result debris are thrown back in time to 1908, where debris cloud crashes to the ground near the river Tunguska, resulting in massive explosion that can be seen from a long distance away and shockwaves causing damage in settlements hundreds of kilometers away. Due to remoteness of the region there is little interest in Russian government. However in 1927 Soviet government dispatches a team made from scientists from various fields, among them bright young student from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Sergey Korolyov. Team discovers various items they can't explain, describing them as »unknown metal or metal alloy«. Items are shipped to Moscow where they are stored in government facility under NKVD control. Final report is classified as well and few people actually see it, the event and findings slowly drift into oblivion. During the chaos of Great Patriotic War items are inadvertently dispersed into various locations while some items are lost.

After the war as part of Soviet team examining V-2 ballistic missile technology Korolyov notices certain resemblances between captured German technology and what he can remember from items dug up at Tunguska 20 years earlier. A state-wide search is initiated to locate either so called “Tunguska items” or final report about the event. After months of search some parts are located, composing around 60% of items, while report is not found. Newly founded NII-88 institute located outside Moscow is tasked with trying to determine what “Tunguska items” actually are, if they are actual missile technology and if so to learn as much as possible from them. New team is dispatched to Tunguska but return more or less empty handed, 4 decades have result in items being buried, eroded or otherwise damaged beyond recognition.

NII-88 institute with help of captured German missile scientists manage to reverse engineer some technology, paving the way for both 1957 Sputnik and 1961 Soyuz-1 (Gagarin) flights, giving Soviet Union a significant advantage in emerging space race. However the 1950s and 1960s Soviet technology and knowledge doesn’t allow for items, now identified as two separate satellites, to be completely reversed engineered. Still, knowledge and technology gained from them allow to create a self sustaining cycle where existing technology allows for more information to be gained by examining the items, such information then improves technology which in turn allows more information to be gained from items. The “Tunguska items”, still a highly secret subject through the Cold War, fuel development of Soviet space program and although not directly related, creation of first orbital station, Mir. Financial troubles following collapse of Soviet Union slow down the research, but even so by early 1990s Russian scientists believe they have learned everything they can from the items. Final analysis is used to create new generation of Kosmos satellites. However knowledge gained is not complete and some troubles still persist. In 1993 one satellite is launched and communication with it is lost. As it doesn’t have maneuvering systems it orbits the Earth for more than a decade, that is until 10. February 2009 when it collides with US Iridium 33 communication satellite over Taymyr peninsula, northern Russia.

The collision causes their reactors to explode and combined effect crating a disruption in time fabric. As a result debris are thrown back in time to 1908, where debris cloud crashes to the ground near the river Tunguska, resulting in massive explosion that can be seen from a long distance away and shockwaves causing damage in settlements hundreds of kilometers away.

Use of Dragons in Warfare, A Brief History
aktarian
Before I begin there is a point that needs to be made clear. This article will deal with European dragons only, Chinese use differs greatly and as such is a separate issue and not a subject of this work.

Origins

European dragons are divided into 3 separate but similar subspecies. Draconus Cymrianus, native to Wales; Draconus Teutonicus, native to modern northern Germany and Poland and Draconus Sarmanticus, native to modern Romania. In modern times only Draconus Cymrianus still exists. Draconus Teutonicus went mostly extinct during migration period (5th-8th century AD) though isolated dragons survived until early 11th century. Many Draconus Sarmanticus were killed during Roman-Dacian wars (early 1st century AD), those that survived were killed during Gothic wars (late 4th-early5th century) and Hunnic invasions so they were extinct by 6th century.

Reasons for survival of Draconus Cymrianus have been generally agreed as following: their native area was isolated part of isolated region and as such didn't experience frequent massive warfare and the fact that Snowdon massif in NW Wales is only place where cinnabar is found both in it's pure (actually around 97%) form and can be extracted without risking mercury poisoning. This ore allowed Welsh and later English to feed it to their dragons thus achieving fire-breathing ability and increased their fighting potential. At this point I must point out that while fire breathing is traditionally associated with dragons this is present only among Draconus Cymrianus, Draconus Teutonicus and Draconus Sarmanticus didn't breathe fire. While study of excavated fossils of those two subspecies indicate that they could be capable of it, lack of pure cinnabar prevented it.

Draconic characteristics

While I'm sure readers of this history are well aware of how dragons look like, allow me to focus on their characteristics that influence their use in warfare. It is impossible to distinguish female from male dragon by looking at their exterior when females are not nursing, fact that hindered their domestication. In addition both sexes display similar behavioral characteristics. Dragons fall into class “reptilia”, order “Crocodylia«. As the classification shows, they are closely related to crocodiles. Dragons go through mating season, but as females take long care of their offspring this does not happen yearly. Like rest of »reptilia« class dragons lay eggs, usually 4-5 per hatch. After approximately 9 months dragons hatch. Dragon eggs have displayed various traits not found in other species. The skin is very strong and can survive strong pressure and force, while some eggs have been found in some sort of hibernation. How this process comes about is not entirely understood but also not relevant to this history.

Young dragons experience quite rapid growth once they hatch, provided sufficient food is available. Dragons reach adulthood at around 9 years although sexual maturity comes later, likely evolutionary response to keep population size in check. Young dragons stay with their mother until they reach adulthood, at which point mother goes into another mating period. Maximum size has been estimated as approximately 20 meters in length (neck extended, not counting the tail) with approximate 18 meters wingspan (fully extended). Size of adult dragon depends on quantity and quality of food it receives during early life, ironically dragons bred in captivity can therefore be bigger than ones growing up in the wild. One of the defining dragon characteristics is its muscle redundancy, their muscles are much stronger than necessary for flight. This made them very useful in early warfare as they could lift approximately 500 kilograms of weight in addition to their 300 kilogram bodies, or 3 men in full plate armor. However as only one could effectively fight from it only 2 men rode it into combat at any time, other being the dragon handler. 3 men teams were used either for reconnaissance or transport. Maximum age is hard to determine, histories indicate dragons living past 150 years. However the repeated stress of battle, not to mention injuries, meant dragons seldom reached 100 years of age. Currently oldest known specimen are male at Cardiff ZOO, estimated to be around 120 years old (age is difficult to determine as it was caught in the wild when adult), female at Moscow Kremlin (102 years old, once belonging to Czar Nikolai II now “belonging to Russian people”) and male part of Royal British Dragon Guard, 93 years old. Fossil analysis show that all three draconic subspecies share similar characteristics, they differ slightly in bone structure. Dragon body is fully covered in scales which offer them slightly better protection than chainmail armor, but not as good as plate armor. Dragon flame can reach up to 30 meters, providing we are talking about adult and healthy dragon who was fed cinnabar/quicksilver constantly with temperature of the flame exceeding 1000 degrees Celsius.

Draconus Sarmanticus

Ancient Greek histories show that rulers used dragons but rarely in warfare. They were mostly used as status symbol, showing the power and wealth of their owner, or as guardians of treasures (see Ladon guarding Garden of the Hesperides, Python at Delphi, Hydra, though this one was a wild specimen, Colchian and Ismenian Dragon...). Historians have argued about meaning of descriptions of multiple heads attributed to these dragons, generally accepted reason is that authors had to rely on second hand accounts and such stories always grow with time, people attributing various things to their foes to make themselves appear in better light. What is sure is that there are no accounts of dragons being used in warfare. Small numbers and resulting high value made them too valuable to risk in open warfare. Histories also show that dragons owned by rich rulers of various cities and states were prime targets for rebels and thieves, later mostly when they tried to steal gold or other valuables. It seems that for reasons yet unknown Romans didn't develop much interest in them. Conquest of Greece and Asia Minor did bring them in contact with dragons, but it seems dragons simply couldn't find a place in their culture. And at this point I need to point out again that Draconus Teutonicus and Draconus Sarmanticus were not capable of fire breathing, post-roman writers often blamed fires in Roman cities on them, that is simply not true!

Roman legions did use “draco”, a sort of windsock in the form of a dragon to be used by a cohort, similar to legionary eagle. Draco first appeared after conquest of Dacia and was used as a shock tactics. As mentioned before, dragons held high status among Greeks and Dacians. When Romans slew a dragon they cut off its head and bore it in front of their army to demoralize their eastern opponents, however carrying actual head was difficult due to its size, so draco was used instead. It signified that Roman legionaries were not afraid of them and by extension not afraid of people who respected dragons. Later draco began to symbolize general courage of roman armies and not specifically their dragon-slaying prowess.

Draconus Teutonicus

It is hardly surprising that Draconus Teutonicus is least well known. Their habitat didn’t offer them much food and by the time advanced agriculture developed in the region they were mostly extinct. Fossils found show small specimen, though detailed analysis showed this was not due to their genetics, but simply due to lack of food. Marginal agriculture barely sufficient to feed Germanic population at the time of Roman Empire also didn’t allow rulers to keep them as status symbols as they couldn’t feed them enough, Germanic people also placed high value on things other than material possessions. They are briefly mentioned in Tacitus “Germania”, however he thought he was talking about Draconus Sarmanticus, which was known to Romans. Other literary works don’t go into details since by the time literacy spread to the region dragons were mostly extinct.
What literature there is deals with various heroes battling dragons, indicating dragons were seen as a threat to Germanics, mostly due to attacking domestic animals, threatening people with starvation. As such dragons acquired mostly negative character in Germanic culture and people associated positive character with eagle and adopted it as their symbol.

Draconus Cymrianus

Draconus Cymrianus is a well researched animal, which is no surprise, seeing how widespread its use was. Earliest mentions of dragons can be found in Roman texts, however Wales didn’t feature prominently in Roman plans and region was mostly left alone. After Romans left Britain to its own devices in 410AD England devolved into fighting between Roman successors and Saxon invaders, followed by establishment of English kingdoms. Wales became even more of a backwater and was mostly ignored by players further east. English kings started to cast their eyes on Wales in later centuries, however such advances were stopped. The role of dragons in this is not entirely clear, though it’s certain they were used.

Around the time of Roman departure dragons underwent the most dramatic change in their history, acquiring fire breathing ability. How exactly this happened is not clear, what is clear is that it was accidental discovery rather than deliberate research process. Most widely accepted theory is that cinnabar from mines in Snowdon massif found its way into digestive system of some dragons, their fire breathing ability was quickly noted, traced to Snowdon massif as fire breathing dragons were present only there and then systematically developed. Cinnabar mining produces various form of this mineral, most likely large amounts of waste were dumped near early refineries, where it seeped into the ground, was absorbed into the grass which in turn was eaten by sheep who were in turn devoured by dragons. Other theories, such as waste being dumped into water where it was drunk by dragons seem unlikely as concentrations in water would be too small, as are theories that dragons somehow ate refined cinnabar, quicksilver or mercury extract since dragons don’t eat rocks.

But even though Welsh kingdoms were able to use fire breathing dragons against English, who didn’t have them, their numbers were too small to achieve more than temporary turn back English invasions. We must again remember that Wales at that time was undeveloped with little agricultural surplus to feed large numbers of dragons. Even so, they managed to temporary preserve Welsh independence. But even dragons were not able to prevent eventual conquest on Wales in late 13th century. By then English were aware of dragons and their war potential and were developing weapons to counter them. One of the reasons for English adoption of longbow, which later won victory and eternal fame at Agincourt, was to counter dragons. As mentioned before, dragons are covered with scales, giving them good protection against arrows. Important detail here is that when fighting dragons one generally shoots upward at high angle, not level or at low upward angle as when fighting people. That means that as arrow ascends it loses its speed and power, often enough of it to be unable to penetrate the scales. English adoption of longbow together with bodkin arrowhead and improved archery training meant that if dragons couldn’t be brought down, massed longbow fire was enough to keep them at a distance where they couldn’t be a deciding factor. English also used ballistae for set-piece battles, sieges or for protection of camps, forts, castles and other infrastructure that were often targeted by dragons. Dragons inflicted enough casualties on English to slow their invasion and even win a temporary peace, but ultimately English prevailed.

One of the first acts English did in Wales was establishment of direct royal control over Snowdon mines, control that persist to this day, though today it’s the British government that exercises the control. With larger population and better developed agriculture English were able to steadily increase number of dragons, forming units of some 20 dragons each. Their importance can be seen by the fact that despite their small size they were commanded either by royal princes or high nobles known for their loyalty to the king. Dragons saw limited use during Scottish wars, their small numbers, estimated to be around 40 altogether, not enough to ensure English victory.

In the next big conflict, 100 year war (1337 to 1453), English started to experience troubles that plagued dragon use practically until the end of their use, supply. Adult dragons require large amounts of food, approximately 300 kilograms of meat per day per dragon (or in practical terms, about 3 cows every 4 days). In addition to ensure continued fire breathing ability each dragon has to consume about half a kilogram of cinnabar (or about 150 grams of quicksilver) daily. Because of this keeping large number of dragons in the field was always problematic, end result being dragons operating either close to British Isles or in better developed areas such as Canada and South Africa, where steady supply could be ensured. As English forces were not operating at the end of steady and secure supply line use of dragons was limited and were shipped to France to support large scale operations, when battle against French was expected. They mostly operated close to secure English possessions. Their first large scale use was at Battle of Crecy (August 1346). French knew English had dragons and tried to offset their use by massed crossbow fire by Genoese mercenaries, hoping crossbow arrows will be able to bring them down. However rain that fell prior to battle dampened their strings so their fire was ineffective. Once French knights charged dragons swooped on them from above, causing both confusion and carnage. French charges were ineffective and combined longbow/dragon fire allowed English to win the day. Next month dragons saw some use during siege of Calais but they didn’t play important role, well fortified cities bristling with weapons proved hard nuts to crack and stone fortifications invulnerable to dragon fire. 10 years later dragons again played an important role at the Battle of Poitiers, where first dragons cooperated with archers to disrupt French cavalry charges, then withdrew and then together with English cavalry swoop on French from the flank, again winning the day. Sources claim different number of participating dragons from as low as 30 to unbelievable 200 (which amounts to entire English draconic force at that time!), modern estimates put number around 80 dragons (4 squadrons) with some 20 killed or crippled. The problem of supply meant that no dragons were used during Battle of Agincourt (1415).

The role of dragons in these battles is well documented and part of British folklore today, however much less known is their role in chevauchée, or raids. As major battles were few and far between both sides resorted to raiding enemy territory, both to inflict material damage, hurt their morale and also to supply themselves. For such warfare, if we can call it that, dragons were perfect. Able to quickly cover large distances they were able to wreak havoc practically everywhere they wanted. Supply was less of a problem as they were able to feed themselves and their riders carried enough cinnabar/quicksilver to allow them to breathe fire (term »scorched earth«, now meant that nothing is left standing, came about from such use, English dragons operating in small groups no larger than 6 (or 3 pairs) frequently burned fields, crops and small villages to the ground). Small groups meant dragons didn't get in each other's way when it came to searching for food and operating separately they were able to inflict damage over vast area. During the night group divided into three parts, while two groups rested, ate and slept one was airborne, guarding them, dragon’s better night vision allowed them to spot enemy and warn others. But in truth, French peasants and even small groups of French troops preferred to stay well away from any dragons they saw. Use of dragons can therefore be divided into 4 categories: on defense they were used to disrupt enemy cavalry charge, usually combined with longbowmen, on offensive they either attacked enemy line prior to English cavalry charge to disrupt its cohesion or combined with cavalry hit enemy flank, or used independently for deep raids into enemy territory. They were seldom used during sieges as they were vulnerable to massed archer fire, though sometimes they were used to start fires in cities under siege; dragons swooped in usually at night, set fire to wooden building and quickly fly away.

Next conflict which saw extensive dragon use was War of the Roses (1455–1485). As war was fought on English soil and close to Wales dragons saw extensive use by both sides. Unlike 100 Years's War mutual use of dragons to a degree cancelled their effectiveness and no side was able to use them to gain decisive advantage, however there are several interesting facts that need to be mentioned. As mentioned earlier Snowdon massif is only site where cinnabar can be found in its pure form and Wales is place where Draconus Cymrianus originated. While dragons spread eastward and combined with breeding them in captivity meant that Wales lost its preeminence as a source for animals themselves the importance of the mine remained. As War of Roses was a civil war control of Snowdon mine was important and unlike previous wars unsure. Both sides battled for control of it and Wales in general. This was not lost on Henry Tudor, who also had some Welsh heritage. When he landed on Isles in August 1485 he chose Wales, although landed on its southern end rather than north, at Snowdon massif. As Henry VII rallied Wales to his side, including gaining control of Snowdon mine complex, Richard III tried to regain control of it. This resulted in battle of Bosworth and Tudor (house of Lancaster) victory and founding of Tudor dynasty. Another important detail is that Henry VII placed a dragon on his coat of arms, tradition followed by all Tudor monarchs except Mary I. Widespread, if somewhat ineffective use of dragons in civil war resulted in drastic decline of number of dragons, numbers dwindling to some 40 trained dragons by its end. It will not be until mid-1500s when draconic force was again brought back to previous levels, luckily for English country was not involved in major war at that time. That Henry VII realized the importance of dragons is also shown by the fact that under him England strengthened control over Wales, tying it even closer to the crown, obviously to ensure future supply of dragons and cinnabar.

It was also in this period (14th-15th century) that English culture developed a dual attitude toward dragons. On one hand they were seen as important weapon which together with longbow crushes everything in its path, on the other hand they can be destructive and dangerous, not to mention St. George being a patron saint of England and his dragon hunting in Asia Minor is well known. While Catholic Church considered them evil creatures and tried to persuade English rulers to abandon their use, calls which were ignored, Anglican Church, being more closely associated with English monarchy, saw them as a symbol of wild nature that has to be tamed by man, same way as naturally sinful human nature has to be overcome by faithful living. Catholic church stance explains why (catholic) Mary I didn’t have dragon on her coat of arms, while protestant Tudor monarchs did.

By mid-1500s two important processes have begun. One was already mentioned growth of draconic force bringing their numbers back to pre War of Roses level of some 200 trained dragons. Other was slow but sure growth of navy both in size and importance. At that time English literature sees first mention of “fire ship”, which was a ship designed to carry dragons. They varied in size but were generally large and consisted of a hull and single large space below decks. That space had extra shielding to withstand heat from draconic fire, usually stone. Dragons exited from large opening at the stern with command bridge sited well forward. As you can imagine they were not very maneuverable but did add extra punch to English navy, though they carried small numbers of dragons, with 6 being standard. Parallels with modern aircraft carriers are obvious.

Habsburg forces later claimed that English provided Dutch rebels with some dragons which were used to demolish ship bridge at Antwerp in April 1585, but that has been later proven to be false. However, English did provide some cinnabar and quicksilver, estimated to be around 20 and 2 kilograms respectively, which allowed for more effective detonation of gunpowder on “hellburner” fire ship. That cinnabar/quicksilver supply was closely guarded by English advisors, members of Royal English Draconic Guard, and handed over just prior to “hellburners” being deployed in order to prevent it from falling into Habsburg hands.

To what degree Dutch action inspired one of most famous dragon attacks that came 3 years later is up to debate. Obviously the idea of unleashing dragons against massed ships was established by English, as did proper weapons, on the other hand Dutch showed how to maximize their effects.

While I’m sure readers are familiar with Spanish Armada (August 1588) let me quickly explain some background. Francis Drake, commander of dragon force, was unusual man for such position. While requirements for command of dragon force was somewhat relaxed in decades prior to Gravelines, dragon squadrons were still commanded by high nobles, who saw them as alternative for knightly warfare. While Drake was a noble at that time he was only recently knighted. However he had two advantages. One, as his name last name suggest, was that he came from a family with long historical association with dragons. While not hailing from Wales, traditional draconic breeding ground, his family was long-time dragon breeders, working on royal estates in Devon. Several members of his family were part of draconic squadrons, ranging from ground handlers and back-riders to riders themselves. Other was that Francis knew Spanish naval tactics very well, having pirated Spanish treasure ships for 2 decades. Drake’s commission, while seeming logical from modern perspective was controversial at the time and Elizabeth I had to fend off numerous complaints from nobles who saw themselves better suited for that command.

In face of constant criticism and under watchful eyes of disgruntled nobles Drake decided for some drastic action. On 28. July dragons flying from 8 fireships attacked Spanish ships anchored off Calais, waiting to embark Spanish troops. 40 dragons took part, causing massive panic among Spanish sailors and some damage, though no Spanish ship was sunk or destroyed. Panic resulted in Spanish fleet losing formation so their distinctive and deadly crescent formation. Next day English ships attacked in what was to be known as battle of Gravelines. Combined English fleet and dragon attacks caused serious damage to Spanish ships, though only 5 of them were lost. In next days English fleet and dragons harassed Spanish fleet as it sailed north, breaking pursuit on 12. August, although dragons were used to track Spanish fleet, closing in to attack stragglers and damaged ships. When Elizabeth I delivered her Tilbury speech the most famous line »I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too« has been interpreted as reference to english monarchs using dragons to great effect in the past. But otherwise Tilbury speech does not mention dragons specifically, mostly praising sailors and other soldiers.

But Spanish Armada was dragon swansong. Proliferation and improvements in firearms ment that dragons were becoing increasingly vulnerable on battlefield and were slowly withdrawn from such use. First they disappered from main action, being used for reconaissance and communications, then slowly removed from these roles as well. Dragons still played a big role in colonial warfare until late 19th century when English and later British troops faced enemy with no access to gunpowder weapons.
During English civil war (1642-51) dragons played small role and the fact that royalists retained control of the Wales and still lost the war shows that, unlike War of the Roses where Henry VII’s control of Wales proved to be war-winning element, they ceased to be deciding factor.

As a side note, Boston Tea Party in 1773 was in fact a cover for destruction of large shipment of cinnabar on two British ships anchored in Boston harbor. As Americans rebels prepared for violent action against the British they feared that dragons could be used against them and preempted such action by destroying cinnabar. While dragons saw only limited use during North American Uprising that started 2 years later, the impact of cinnabar destruction was not as crucial as rebels expected. As mentioned earlier dragons were not used against modern militaries and American insurgents fell in that category, nor was entire cinnabar stockpile in North America destroyed. However this action showed that rebels still feared dragons and wanted to limit their actions as much as possible. As a somewhat symbolic act of revenge in August 1814 dragons were used to set fire to numerous buildings after British captured Washington, British commander Robert Ross chose dragons to do it because this allowed fire to be set to numerous buildings in quick succession and high temperature of dragon’s fire allowed buildings to catch fire both surely and fast.
By mid 19th century dragons found a new role Canada in newly formed North-West Mounted police. They were used to patrol vast and scarcely populated areas, a role they fulfilled up to 1950s when growing number of airplanes took over this role as well.
Despite being removed from modern battlefield dragons were used in expansion of British colonial empire in Africa in 19th century. Facing civilizations less technologically advanced they reverted to their 14th century role of shock element, swooping down on unsuspecting natives who had no effective weapons to defend themselves. With carving up of Africa completed and even rebels gaining access to gunpowder weapons dragons finally saw their place on the battlefield disappear and were relegated to ceremonial roles. Currently Britain has two such units, Royal British Draconic Guard (former Royal English Draconic Guard) and Royal Welsh Draconic Guard, former being under nominal command of British monarch and later under Prince of Wales. British Guards are a brigade strength force, being composed of 2 regiments, each composed of 3 squadrons for a total of 120 dragons, while Welsh Guards are a single regiment, or 60 dragons. They can often be seen during ceremonies involving either monarch or prince such as coronations, royal weddings, receptions of foreign rulers and so forth. All Guards dragons are capable of breathing fire and are fed well to achieve full size.

In second half of 19th century dragons found a new place in British society. Harking back to antiquity and Draconus Sarmanticus, they became status symbols of upper classes. As dragon use in war declined, British government eased restrictions that were previously applied. Newly hatched dragons became available for private purchase, however laws were passed prohibiting owners from feeding them cinnabar or quicksilver so they lacked fire breathing ability. Young dragons also became valued state gifts for friendly governments, raising interests among upper classes in those countries as well. However keeping a dragon as a pet is an expensive hobby due to large amounts of food dragons require.

Something is loose up north......
aktarian
It was dark, the wind was blowing and they ran. They ran fast toward home. One was wounded and was limping a bit but he too ran. It was a good hunt. They killed a lot, though they lost quite a few members. But that was the Way as told by their Leader. The White was happy. He proved his worth and Leader will be satisfied with him. It was his first hunt. He killed and he ate. He lost about quarter of his pack but the enemy was gone. He was the only White on this hunt so loosing several Grays didn’t matter. They were expendable. Everybody knew that. But he knew enemy will be back. They always were.

Central Finland

Major Arwen cursed softly as hover plane was shaken by turbulence but he knew they were lucky. The weather up north was atrocious at best most of the winter. And these polar winters lasted for months. Pilot’s voice came over the intercom “We are landing. Should be down in 10 minutes. Everybody buckle up, wind is strong on runway.” He was good at his word. 10 minutes later his A500 and 2 that accompanied it were on the ground and Arwen’s force was piling out, everybody taking their backpack and weapons. Rest of equipment was to be offloaded by ground personnel. On the ground Arwen was met by sergeant who said “I’m to take you to CP. Things are getting hectic around here. Brigadier Resen will brief you.” Arwen just shrugged. He knew that if they were called things were beyond hectic. He motioned to sergeant to lead the way. His officers followed as well.

When he entered briefing room he knew as an absolute fact that hectic was gross understatement. With corner of his eye he spotted somebody in white camouflage uniform. Arwen wore one as well but his had different pattern. Less green and more black. If Russian Imperial Guards were present it was a sign that powers above were taking this very seriously. He saluted to Resen who waved him and others to a table. He noticed teapots on the table. They were expected, it seemed. When Russian set in front of him his mouth opened and it took an effort to close them. Major Ivan Gruznik, the best Hunter in Eurasia and probably the world, though Americans and British would object to that. He also had a personal grudge against the Tribes, as they were called. Once his unit was ambushed and he got into hand to hand fight with a White. The fact that he lived to tell the tale was statement enough. But White tore out his lower jaw with one blow. Surgeons managed to make a prosthetic one but he still wore long mustaches to cover the fact that it was a fake. It didn’t stop him from talking about killing every Gray, White and even mythical Blue that walked the earth. And he was making good on his talk. But that was neither here nor now. The briefing was starting. Resen didn’t believe in wasting time.

“OK people, here’s the deal. We lost contact with Outpost Renck 5 days ago. Due to the storm we couldn’t send anything by air so we sent a platoon out. They were ambushed and only 5 of them came back. One died of wounds later and due to reasons that need no explaining we had to kill another one. Her body was burned as per SOP. However they managed to make a short recording.” He turned on holographic projector and inserted disk. When Hunters saw it something changed in their eyes. They knew what they were against now. It will be a bloody fight as White that led the attackers was widely recognized as one of the most vicious and intelligent. It didn’t matter. Arwen knew their job was to hunt him and his followers down and kill them. And if they came to this place they were there for a reason. “You leave for Outpost Renck in 2 hours. The weather has cleared enough so you’ll go by helicopter. Check it out and report back. If it was overrun as we fear you’ll go on patrol to find them. As this is Confederate territory Major Gruznik will be subordinated to you. Good hunt and good luck.”

Outpost Renck

As a commander Arwen sat in helicopter’s pilot cabin, right behind pilot. This gave him good view ahead and sideways and opportunity to talk to crew. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach as they approached outpost and his suspicion was confirmed as soon as he saw camp. Palisade was breeched in two places. He knew there will be no survivors, at least not in human form. He taped pilot on shoulder and pointed to clearing some 300 meters from camp. Pilot just nodded. Helicopter crews were reluctant to land close to anything that could conceal an ambush. Tribes were known to leave behind some of their members to attack rescuing party and more than a few helicopters were lost that way. Arwen walked back to cargo compartment and turned on his radio “Listen up people. The camp was overrun so shoot anything that moves inside. We move in together and don’t get separated from rest of the group. Make sure your NVG recognition pads are clear and visible. I don’t want any friendly fire deaths. Be aware that Russians are using different pads. You should see them clearly but be careful anyway.” His helicopter landed 2 minutes later and he was first one out as officers should be. Despite wearing snowshoes snow gave way and he sank a bit. He didn’t fight it but simply raised his rifle above his head and threw himself flat on his stomach. He heard several thumps as rest of force from his helicopter was jumping out. He checked around and saw that other three helicopters were landing rest of his force and Russians as well. He covered his head with arm as helicopter’s downwash raised small snow storm. He waited for it to calm than rose and waived his force on.

As they approached the palisade he noticed several dark patches of snow. He nodded, the camp was overrun but it wasn’t an easy picking. As they entered through holes he keyed his microphone “You know the drill. Form a line then we go building by building. We will gather the bodies outside. Rokas, take your squad and find the machinery. We’ll need a big hole.” As his troops were searching the camp they found familiar sights. Bodies torn to pieces, blood everywhere and signs of heavy fighting. Bullet holes were everywhere as were body parts covered with fur. Yes, it was a heavy fight.

Suddenly he heard excited shouting “We have a live one here in the office building.” Arwen ran there, as much as he could with snowshoes on, and saw a group of soldiers around body lying face down on the floor inside an office. Every soldier had their guns trained on it, safety off. He motioned to one “Turn him over.” As soldier carefully inserted his foot under body and rolled him over Arwen knew what to expect but was sickened anyway. Confederate soldier was already shifting. His face was covered in fur and jaw was longer than it should be and it was sticking out. As it (he couldn’t think about him as human anymore) growled he noticed teeth were longer as well. Arwen put his foot on its chest raised his gun to shoulder and shot the creature in the head. “Take it outside and throw it in the hole with the rest.” The camp was searched and 52 bodies were found or at least their identity disks. That meant 12 bodies were missing. Arwen cursed softly. If they didn’t try to run away, which wasn’t likely, it meant they were taken and were turned. He hated when that happened. Sometimes humans retained lot of their memory when they turned and when soldiers turned that was bad news. The Tribes were not able to produce weapons but sometimes they were able to use primitive ones. Not guns, at least not yet. At least Tribes haven't left anybody behind. That was often messy affair that had casualties written all over it. He turned to his radio operator. “I want to talk to base as soon as burial is over. We need to let them know what happened here.” Operator nodded and started working on the radio.

He walked to a hole Rokas and her troops dug with digger from outpost. All the bodies were in body bags and already doused with gasoline with both Confederate and Russian troops in circle around it. He nodded to priests. First the Christian one talked about eternal life that is to come after death. Then Norse priest called on Valkyries to take these brave soldiers to Valhalla. Arwen said a silent prayer to that effect as well. He noticed Russians were a bit uncomfortable but that was to be expected. Russian empire was far more rigid in its beliefs and frowned upon anything deviating from Orthodox Christianity, unlike European Confederation which tolerated practically anything as long it didn’t involve human sacrifice. As the priests finished it was his turn to make the usual speech. “We stand at the border of civilization, on its very edge. We are humanity’s first, last and only line of defence. We stand here so that forces of darkness are kept away from our homes and our families. These brave soldiers fell in this long struggle and others will take their place on the walls. And we know that when we fall others will take our place as well. There can be no compromise, there can be no peace, there can only be victory or destruction of humanity.” He pulled out phosphorous stick, lit it and threw it in hole. Gasoline ignited at once and all troops drew themselves to attention and saluted. It was quickly over. He motioned Rokas to cover the hole.

Did he really stand on the wall to protect humanity from darkness? Tingling in his stomach put that in question. He ignored it and started a report to brigadier Resen.


Nobody really knew how Tribes came to be. It seemed as if anybody with few minutes of spare time came up with new one, claiming this one was really it. You had your usual set of conspiracy theorists claiming it was some sort of genetic engineering that went wrong, alternately blaming it on Russians, Americans, Canadians and Europeans, combination of them or all at the same time. Some claimed it was a virus, possibly of extraterrestrial origin. Some claimed it was God’s (or Gods’) punishment for wicked ways of humanity and that conforming to whatever religion they were preaching would make them go away. Or that they were in fact demons let loose on earth and that The End Is Near. Some claimed that Nature simply started pushing pack after being abused by humans for so long, a natural defence if you will. Some claimed it was simple evolution, basically new species. While yet others claimed that they were simply werewolves of old tales and that their presence is confirmed and that they exist in large numbers.

Whatever caused them fact remained that humans suddenly faced fierce competition for top spot on food chain. For people like Arwen or Gruznik how and why didn’t matter. They were determined to make sure that humanity would win that competition. Second place didn’t mean you get silver, it meant you get killed and eaten, not necessary in that order. Northern countries were waking to that fact and were grudgingly setting aside their differences and starting to cooperate. European confederation and Russian Empire probably led the way, as Eurasia was the place where Tribes originated, however NAU was waking up to the threat, proposing either nuking frozen Bering Straits to prevent Tribes from crossing, building some sort of wall across it to block their passage or both. Either way it was the proverbial shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted, Tribes crossed in North America fairly soon and NAU politicians simply ignored the warnings as usual European panicking and Russian hallucinations fueled by large amounts of vodka.

But at least countries were somewhat prepared to meet the threat. With Ice Age that hit northern hemisphere in 2050s countries there simply found themselves without suitable land to grow food for their population. So the great principles of international cooperation from turn of millennium went out the window and through front door entered revamped colonialism of 17th and 18th centuries. Some countries did try to cover it with a flimsy cloak of helping developing countries, like Spain in North Africa. Others, like France and Netherlands busy carving up central Africa or Russia reclaiming central Asia for the newly reconstructed Empire, simply didn’t bother. British sneaking into South African commonwealth and slowly taking it over under guise of being invited there by local white population to protect them from increasingly hostile black population fell somewhere in between. And NAU simply transformed their influence south of Rio Grande into de-facto colony. And as history showed no empire came cheap. Locals resented their new overlords and military force was needed to protect fertile lands and resources, as well as growing population of colonists. While liberal use of chemical and biological weapons, combined with occasional use of tactical nuke, did keep locals more or less in check and finely honed SARS III and IV virus did reduce Indian and Chinese populations to a fraction of their early 21st century size, regular forces were required both as scalpel when machete was not needed and to serve as a reminder that resistance was indeed futile. And this force was then turned against the Tribes who were, as it seemed, determined to write humanity’s final chapter.

And Hunters were the elite of Home forces. While rest of forces kept in their countries were content to sit in bases of various sizes or man various solid defences, Hunters went out to, as their name suggested, hunt the Tribes and bring the war to them. Striking fast they hit their known dwellings, hunting their leaders and trying to remove Whites, their ruling, or officer, caste faster than new ones were breed. The idea was that if Whites were killed off, then Grays, their foot (or paw, if one was stickler for details) soldiers would be without direction and focus and could be killed off easier. That was the idea and as all good ideas go translating it into reality was proving something of a problem. It wasn’t that Whites hid, far from it, but they never went out in large numbers and always had several Grays with them so taking them out wasn’t that easy. So far humanity wasn’t exactly winning the attrition game. It wasn’t exactly loosing it either, but for humanity draw wasn’t acceptable.

The Story of One that is Destined to Roam
aktarian
NB: this grew out of inside joke at some forum. You might enjoy it anywayeven if you'll miss the pun.



Outside winter was showing its teeth, sending strong gusts of wind into the valleys and plains, driving thick snow almost horizontally. We children gathered around the fire, glad we were warm and each had a cup of hot honey in our hands, covered in thick wool blankets. Grandfather looked at us and we looked at him with expectations in our eyes, pleading for another story. He smiled, his mouth holding very few teeth but sweet tongue, “a story, you say, eh?” We nodded as one. He took a sip of his honey, laced with some sweet vine, cleared his throat and begun.

The Story of One that is Destined to Roam

It was said he lived in the forests of Va-lan, in the corner of Narra continent. He was a hunter, and a good one. He never went hungry, even during the coldest of winters and what he had he was willing to share with those who came to his door. He never turned away anybody, no matter what his station was. And he never took anything in return, he believed in the old code of hospitality. Or maybe he believed in the legends of hungry spirits who haunt the ones that chased them away. And he had a beautiful wife, hair the color of raven’s feathers, as black as the Bottomless pond and eyes the color of sapphire. He loved her very much and she loved him back and gave him two children. Twins, a boy and a girl. He was happy as one could be in those times.

But then the scourge came. First the war then the hunger and then bandits. He fought in the war, of course. He was at the siege of Uran-ha, first over the ramparts. But something changed in him then. He saw the true face of his people. The killings, the looting and it made him sad. But he took an oath to serve under his lord and he was no oath breaker. So he stayed with his lord. When Fimarrians retook the city he fought as hard as he could but it was in vain. During the hot summer he marched back with the remains of the army. He was there when Fimarrians under their goddess-queen fought them again for the last time. Aye, he was there all right. He and his friends formed a line, bringing down their halberds time and time again but each time there was less and less of them, until in the end he stood there alone, among dead bodies of his friends. He turned his eyes toward the sky and called on All-seeing One to take him in his arms and not to turn his face from him and prepared to die. But the death passed him. The queen ordered her troops at the pain of death to take him alive so they tied him and brought her to her tent. He refused to bow to her so her guards knocked him down and laughed at him. But the queen did not. She dismissed them and when they were alone she told him his future. He will live but will see his loved ones die. He will kill but will not have his revenge. He will not eat but he will not be hungry. He will not drink but will not be thirsty. And with that she let him go. With her prophecy heavy on his mind he journeyed home, fearing what he’ll find there. But all seemed well there, wife and children waiting for him. As the months passed he forgot the prophecy and went back to his old life, yet the prophecy did not forget him. With war lost life got hard and food was scarce. But he was a skilled hunter and his family never went hungry.

But there were other dangers, the ones that walked on two legs. One winter day he was out searching for animals that hid in their holes when he noticed smoke coming from his house, much more smoke that there should be. He ran back through knee high snow only to find his house in flames and his family gone, only horse tracks showing where they went. He remembered the prophecy then and he cried. But he knew what he had to do. His war chest was well hidden, buried and untouched. He put on his armor and helmet, buckled his belt and followed the tracks. Soon he heard laughter and smelled roasting meat. He slipped into the woods and circled around, coming to an abandoned house where bandits, already half drunk from spirits were resting, big piece of meat roasting over the fire. He took his sword in his hands and walked in. “You took my wife and my children” he shouted “return them to me and I’ll let you live.” The bandits roared with anger and attacked. He killed them one by one until only one was left. He demanded his family back again but the bandit only laughed at him. “They are already dead, you fool” he said to him, “you’ll never see them again.” Those were his last words before his head was chopped off. But it was true, his family was dead. With tears in his eyes he buried them and left. He wandered the woods aimlessly, not knowing where he was, not knowing where he was going and not caring. He called on All-seeing One to end his life so he could be with his wife and children again but the end didn’t come. As spring came a Fimarrian horse patrol found him, covered in dirt, with beard and hair coming down to his waist. Thinking they faced a demon they attacked but he fought back, killing all but one, a young noble. Then he disappeared into the woods. The noble told others what he had seen and a legend began to grow around him, each person adding a little to the story.

But not all of it was made up. He was drawn to the war as moths are drawn to the light. He shaved his beard, he cut his hair so people didn’t recognize him. It didn’t matter who he fought for. He was in Fimarrian army when they faced Zurarri hordes, he was at Klima pass when 500 Hutta warriors stood against the multitude of Cixa, where war was to be fought he was there. Seeking death to rejoin his family but having that elude him despite having his helmet caved in numerous times, having his body pierced by countless arrows and having swords and spears driven into his body as often as saffron pins are stuck into lamb roast.

One day he was swimming in a lake when he noticed people on the shore watching him. An old woman called him over. He was ashamed that he was naked in front of somebody of obviously high station but she wasn’t. She looked him in the eyes and he remembered that day long ago when she was still young, not with gray but with fiery red hair and flush with victory. “I didn’t bow to you then and I will not bow to you now” he told her but she only smiled. “You are as was foretold. You walk the earth and you search for death. But that which you seek will not come until the stars shine above us and earth crumbles beneath us. You are destined to be here when our bodies will turn to dust. When the end will come you will find peace and you will meet your family. But until then you will be as you are.” He cried and asked her what did he do to displease gods that they punish him so. She shrugged and told him that she doesn’t know why only that it is so. With that she mounted her horse and rode away. He stood on the shore for a long time, until cold made him realize it was evening. And with that he realized what his life was to be. Eternal soldier, eternal warrior, eternally living among dying people. He put on his clothes and went to search for another war.

With that our grandfather finished his story and smiled at us. “Children, that is the story of Luxembourg, eternal warrior.”

3 is a crowd, 5 is Hell
aktarian
Ben is a great guy a magnificent boyfriend but I wish he would become more assertive and stand up for himself (and by extension me). I mentioned he offered to let me move in with the guys, right? Well, I figured things won’t go as smooth as I hoped. Obviously he had troubles breaking the news to Sam and Sock, fearing they’ll say no. I realized that if I relied on his action alone I could wait till Second coming so I had to take matter in my own hands. Once guys were out I simply moved my remaining stuff there and waited for them to return. I did bring pizza and some champagne to smooth things over and to celebrate.


Things didn’t go as planned, obviously. But by now I realized they seldom, if ever, do. Sock and Sam weren’t comfortable with me moving in. Sock started babbling something about lady troubles. I guess he was reading those female books from Ben’s collection. I gave him my dirty look and thought about reminding him about who burned my barn down like some crazy dragon. But things moved quickly to Sam, who was not comfortable with it either. Either he still wasn’t sure I’m not planning to kill him or something else. But during my time spent with Tony and his circle I realized honesty is best route. OK, most of the time, but it seemed like best route here. So I brought out the time I kissed him, hoping to clear matters. Naturally Ben didn’t take it too well, but surprisingly neither did Sock. He stood up for Ben and slapped Sam. I knew Ben and Sock were indeed weirdly close, this just proved it even further. So I explained my attraction to evil and how I got over it and how I realized that Sam wasn’t really evil. I didn’t go in too much details, but they got the picture. Ben said he understood my demon ways, which was very sweet of him. With all these thing out in the open and finally cleared things were to auspicious start and they let me move in. So now I had a roof over my head, was with Ben and could focus on my other things.


Which is funny, in an ironic kind of way. You know how you sometimes spend ages looking for something then it suddenly falls in your lap? I knew Devil’s kid, that would be Sam’s half brother I guess, was somewhere in the city but never, not in my wildest dreams did I expect him to move in with us. Granted my wildest dreams involve spikes, boiling oil, souls and peeler knife, but I digress. So anyway, here he was, Morgan was his name, living under my nose. I knew I had to get him alone and have other demons from Tony’s circle with me. I mean, he is the son of devil and powerful and who knew what powers he had. Better to have safety of numbers than trying to take him out by myself.


So I did what every female demon in my place would do. I used my female charms to lure him, to have him drop his guard. To be quite honest (again, best route to take here!), he wasn’t that hard to trick. He obviously had no regard for women and would chase skirt no matter what, even if said skirt was accompanied by wings and fangs, as was mine. He started bragging about his conquests. In fact I knew the woman he was talking about. Screamed like a little girl when I got my hands on her soul. But anyway, to make rouse even better I started flirting with him really hard. It was working, I could see that. The only problem was that Ben got into jealousy overdrive. That wasn’t good, last thing I needed was Ben throwing a fit when I needed things to stay as calm as possible. I knew it will be hard on him having to watch my flirting but I just hoped things will be over before he flipped.


But apparently Morgan was making a nuisance of himself already. When Ben and I returned from our exercise he was having a pretty loud argument with Sock. Pretty loud by human standards, you wouldn’t believe how loud things can get downstairs. Apparently Morgan erased something Sock recorded or something like that. Well, one thing I learned is that pissing off your host is not a good idea, at least if you wish him to remain your host. But Morgan couldn’t change his nature and started flirting with me. Granted, that was according to my plan, but with Ben and Sock standing right there tensions rose so much I could sink my claws in it. Deep. I decided best way would be to exit gracefully and let boys sort things out for themselves. But Morgan being Morgan followed me and “accidently” saw me half naked in the shower. Luckily Ben wasn’t there or things would get messy. You know, people flipping out, body parts torn from bodies, blood everywhere. Mess to clean up either way. He acted as if nothing was wrong. I could see he was falling for it.


With guys going out for drinks I thought it would be a good way to see other demons. Tony was with guys so I didn’t expect him there, but I needed to inform other demons about my progress and tell them that the time for action was approaching fast. But lo and behold, tony returned with guys and they saw me. Ben got the wrong picture and I could see he was really close to breaking point. He got all jealous and started accusing me of keeping things from him. Well, that was true but not in the way he feared. I decided then and there that I’ll strike at Morgan at the first chance I’ll get. It wasn’t fair to Ben to put him through all this, without him knowing what was really happening.


Guys decided to go to a party that somehow involved stripper clowns, if I understood things correctly. Hey, don’t ask me, human ways are still something of a mystery to me. Morgan and I were alone in the house and it was a perfect time to spring the trap. I acted as if I was falling for his bad boy charm and all and decided to lure him to Tony’s house. He fell for it like a soul being thrown in a pit. Did I mention things not going as planned? Well, that happened again. When we arrived at the house Sam was there, but apparently not Ben. That was unwelcome turn of events, if only because I prefer not to have people around when I do my demon things. Well, things got worse from there. Somehow Morgan got a gun and he started waiving it around. Homo sapiens and their guns, seriously. Anyway, he was getting all worked up, how he will kill Sam and then rat on demons to devil, getting on his good side again. Things were defiantly going out of hand at that point and it was time to act. So I turned into my natural form and couple of us jumped him, finishing things for good. It got a bit messy but what can you expect? Well, I was really glad that was over, but there were still loose ends to tie. For one Sam had to know what happened and that despite our commitment to kill Devil’s offspring he was safe. From us, that is. What others have planned for him I don’t know.


But for me the most important thing was to let Ben know how things stood. He deserved to know, seeing how he was breaking down. When Sam and I got home he was really freaking out. I was glad the hiding and lies were over and I could tell him the truth. He didn’t understand at first but finally got the picture. I know he will never be able to understand me fully but I hope that in time he will get to know me even better. He deserves that.

Anger management
aktarian

I have to admit that these past few days very really something. But the important thing we have to remember is that all ended well and nobody’s head ended up on a pike. OK, I’ll admit, I may have gone a bit overboard but it’s not as if all of it was my fault. I mean honestly, a demon can only take so much rejection before she snaps and does something foolish, right? But in the end my persistence paid off and me and Ben are back together. I feel Sock was not completely comfortable with it but it’s Ben who counts more. He is forgiving but I feel that things have to change between us. I have to try to be better demon for him or who knows where we’ll end up.

Demons can change, and not just our appearance. I guess I didn’t mention I got in touch with some other members of resistance. No, I wasn’t trying to get to Sam, I’m past that, but sometimes you need your own kind around, so you don’t have to constantly watch what you do and say and send people running. Either screaming away or after you with lit torches. From what I heard the resistance topside was practically wiped out some times back. It seems they tried to get Sam to call Devil and try to kill him but it went wrong. Not sure of the details but from what I gather Devil was up to his old tricks and tricked them, then killed most of the demons that tried to kill him. But seriously, what do you expect? He launched his own rebellion back in the day so of course he would be on the lookout for something similar directed at him.

But I digress. I tried to keep a low profile since coming topside so I steered clear of rebels, so Devil wouldn’t find me. But right now I really had no choice. My place burned down, thanks to Sock and his stupid contraption, and I had no place to stay. So I went to see Tony, a rebel I knew, to see if he had a spare beam from which I could hang until I get sorted out. I turned out he had and was willing to let me use it for a while. Well, it was good, I have to say that. He was a great cook, I guess spending so much time topside does have it’s benefits.

But that wasn’t all I learned there. He claimed that his friend ascended to Heaven and appeared to him later as an angel. Well, far from me to argue with the guy who was letting me stay at his place but that did seem a bit much and hard to believe. Steve, that was Tony’s friend, was there when Rebellion (the original one, that is), broke out. And he picked the loosing side as well. And while God is forgiving and all I seriously doubt his forgiveness goes that far. Specially to our kind, who were created to serve Him in all matters. But Tony did believe it and he had quite a following as well, surviving rebels (against Devil, that is) by the look of it.

But whether it was true or not Tony claimed believing it made him a better demon, and I don’t mean improving disembowelment moves. They tried to emulate Steve, hoping to gain entry into Heaven that way. Well, they might succeed but I figured it was a long shot. Don’t get me wrong, I did find some of their philosophy appealing, specially the part about improving yourself and casting away the things humans think are evil. But my motives were mostly trying to improve relations with Ben, not trying to get into Heaven.

Now, if you expect me to get all charitable you would be wrong. I figured best path to improvement was to start working on myself. As Tony had more experience in such matters he was a great help. But still, the work was hard but I knew what lies ahead. So I clenched my fangs and followed his instructions. This thing called meditation really helped, you know. It allows you to focus on yourself, to try to find the good parts and work on them, to make them grow. But luckily that wasn’t all we did. No, not that, he wasn’t into female demons. Despite all the talk about being good, about renouncing evil we didn’t become completely non-violent. Sam wasn’t only Devil’s kid around, not by a long shot. Part of being good was finding them and killing them. So I guess the original spirit of rebellion lived on, only that we weren’t trying to overthrow Devil but prevent him from taking over the Earth. Whether humans deserve saving or not is another question.

So after some time I felt ready to move on. Ben was really helpful during this time. He stood by me when I needed him and was really thrilled with the progress I was making. And then he offered that I move in with him and guys. I thought about it and figured it might be a good idea. To see how much progress I really made and whether I could live among humans once again. But that didn’t mean I forgot the other part of sessions with Tony. In fact that gave me focus and a goal. Rumors had it Devil’s son was living nearby and when found we would move against him.Until then I figured I could enjoy some quality time with Ben.


Breaking up, breaking down
aktarian

So there I was, staying at the barn and plotting my revenge on Ben. Yes, I was serious about making him miserable. Hey, he broke up with me and if he thought he’ll get away with it without consequences he was wrong. So I did what anybody in my place would do, I stalked him to see when would be best time to make my move. I knew his work routine pretty well by now so I hid in the store he was working one night, waiting to catch him alone. Didn’t want any witnesses. And humans freak out more when they are alone, specially in the dark, just what I wanted.

 

So I climbed on some high shelves and waited for him then threw a big, heavy box in front of him. No, I didn’t try to hit him, just wanted to scare him. That didn’t work quite as planned though. Instead of being scared he got mad. Telling me to stay away, to take it easy, to calm down. I had to throw some more things at him before he ran away. I gave him some lead, just to get his hopes up, then followed him. He locked the door behind him, as if that will keep me out. I knocked them down with little effort. Now he was getting really scared. He tried to divert my attention, bringing up good times. As if that will help. It just reminded me what a good thing we had and I got even angrier. So I threw them down loading ramp. It wasn’t high enough to hurt him or anything, just give him a bruise or two. Then I left.

 

I gave Ben some time to cool, for the fear to creep in. It’s more effective if you leave people alone for a few days, then come back in full force, just as they think it’s over. I followed him and decided to make my move when he was in his car. I landed on his roof, then jumped down on the hood, looking as scary as possible. That didn’t work quite as planned though. He wasn’t freaking out. So I did next logical thing, I busted his windshield and started growling at him. Oddly enough that failed to produce any result beside him turning on the radio. Well, the music was bad so I guess it was some kind of torture for him but not nearly enough. I tried something even more drastic and started slashing around with my tail. Imagine my surprise at the lack of reaction. Now that was getting ridiculous so I decided it would be best for me to leave. And I did, flew back to my barn to think things over.

 

Clearly trying to scare Ben wasn’t working so I thought I should see how things stood between us and talk to Ben directly. And apologize if needed. In my human form, thank you very much. I visited Ben at work but didn’t get the chance to talk to him. Sock kept interfering, getting between me and Ben. But I saw Ben didn’t hate me and was really happy to see me. Sock was clearly the problem and if I wanted to get back with Ben Sock would have to be dealt with. If it weren’t for him me and Ben would be back together. Seriously, what was his problem? Couldn’t he see me and Ben belong together?

 

Now the question was how to get him out of the way. Back in the days it would be simple, swoop in and remove an organ he couldn’t live without. Now it’s more complicated. For one people are less tolerant for bodies lying around. For two Ben might not like it, and seeing how me scaring his grandmother into heart attack broke us up I didn’t think me killing his friend would help us get together. Luckily we demons are supernatural beings and have all sorts of powers humans don’t. Like getting into people’s dreams. I guess it’s an ability we got when we were still angels and needed to bring God’s messages to people in their dreams. So I decided to try this and make Sock so afraid of me he wouldn’t dare to do anything. The problem is that dreams are fluid and people can set the pace somewhat. I changed my appearance a bit as well, just to make things more interesting. Sock was resisting though. I guess he had a lot of experience with dreaming and sleeping. I even tried to get a reaction from him by appearing in my underwear but failed. So I decided on a dramatic end, make him believe I ripped out his heart. Seemed somewhat classier than tearing his head off and swallowing it whole. I sensed he woke up right after so I guess it was a big shock for him. Just what I wanted.

 

I was convinced that this will work and he will stay away and not try to prevent me and Ben getting back together. So imagine my surprise when next day I came to the barn and found him and Ben there, spraying gasoline all over the place. Well, clearly they were intend on burning the place down. I mean seriously, what is with people and fire, huh? Don’t they know demons need a roof over our heads and a place to hang from when we sleep? Or is it that they just don’t care? Do we go around setting their homes on fire like some crazy dragons? The only good thing about the whole situation was that Ben was clearly not comfortable with what they were doing. He seemed almost embarrassed and sorry. OK, I admit, maybe I have reacted a bit too strongly about our breakup but it’s not as if people got killed, right? Anyway, Ben was really sorry for how he reacted and apologized. Well, I had to drive the point a bit, just to make him feel more sorry. Sock wasn’t comfortable with it though, I could tell. So I wasn’t only one whose plans did turn out as well as hoped for. But Ben managed to convince him to forget what I did to him. It seems I’m not only one who likes his eyes. Well, things were turning out very well until they ignited the gasoline with their contraption. Fire then quickly spread and whole place went up in flames. Now I don’t mind fire, I’m a demon after all. But I knew I had to make them feel guilty about what they did so I acted all scared and shocked. Which made me realize I was left without a place to stay and that wasn’t good at all.


Meeting the family
aktarian

OK, OK, I know I said I’m looking for a sensitive guy and not some macho idiot full of himself, but the problem with wishes is that you sometimes get what you ask for. Yes, Ben is a sensitive, nice, considerate guy, but he can be too much of that. The other night I wanted to surprise him and spend a romantic evening with him. I brought some food, human food!, hoping to watch some TV and go flying later. He seems to like doing that now and doesn’t even scream that much anymore. But I knew something was not right as soon as I got there. He was all set up to go out and it obviously wasn’t planning to go out with me, as he was surprised to see me. And not surprised in a good way! He had some family thing to go to and obviously I wasn’t invited. OK, I admit such gatherings can be a bit awkward sometimes, but now I know you are not supposed to go after other people’s food with a knife I think I can handle myself in such situations. But obviously Ben didn’t want me there. He started making excuses about everybody speaking Spanish, being boring and so. And then he finally admitted he was afraid his grandmother wasn’t going to approve of me. Yes, I know I’m a demon but you’d think people would be able to see beyond that. Apparently she has “the eye” and would see me as a demon. OK, that could be a bit awkward for Ben and me but seriously, Ben should stand up for himself and not let her tell him who he can and can’t date. Right? Since I saw our conversation was not going anywhere I decided to take matters in my hands, so to speak. Matters not internal organs!, try to resolve things with his grandmother. I introduced myself to her. Boy, that went over like a lead balloon. She clearly didn’t like me, despite the fact I’m not evil. OK, 90% non-evil but hey, that’s more than most humans, right? She was very rude to me as well. Called me a thing. Imagine that, clearly her eye wasn’t that good. And then she spit on the floor, as if to ward off evil spirits. Now that’s just silly, that doesn’t work against demons. And clearly Ben wasn’t going to stand up for himself and for us either. 

So more direct approach was required. Ben’s grandmother was doing some gardening and I thought it would be a good idea to try to settle things between us. She was afraid at first but she calmed down after a while, after I pointed out that I’m an angel. A fallen angel but angel nonetheless. We started talking about Heaven and what that is like. If I were in her place I’d ask what God is like, when he is not throwing us out of Heaven that is, but hey, if she wanted to talk about St. Peter so be it. I thought things were going really well when out of nowhere Ben and this vicious dog appeared. People underestimate Chihuahuas, I’ll tell you that. They think they are these cute, small, harmless dogs, but they can be really evil, constantly plotting against you and you should never, ever turn your back on them. Almost as evil as cats, compensating for their small size or something. Anyway, this dog attacked me and I freaked out. Turned into my demon form, as I do when startled. Boy, that didn’t end well. Grandma collapsed and I flew off before things got even worse.

 Well, things were obviously getting out of hands and I didn’t know what to do. I thought best thing would be to talk to Ben and see how things stood. I visited him at work and brought flowers for his grandmother. People love flowers. Don’t know why but they do. Anyway, he told me his grandma was getting better, which was good. Didn’t want to be responsible for her death, that would make things between me and Ben even more complicated. Ben also told me things were solved between his grandma and me. I was happy until he told me exactly what he meant. Seriously telling her he dumped me so we would continue to date secretly while his family wouldn’t know? What kind of idiotic plan was that? Didn’t he learn anything from the past, when he tried to hide my demon nature from his friends? That it always comes up and then people end up angry and that too often leads to them picking up torches and showing up at your place? I made it clear I wasn’t OK with this so-called plan of his. Well, that didn’t end up well, but things turning out not as planned was becoming sort of a routine by now. He dumped me for real, flowers or no flowers. That wasn’t good. If he thinks he can keep doing that and then expect me to take him back when he changes his mind he was wrong. Dead wrong. OK, wrong now, dead later. Last time I simply closed myself in my barn and went into eating frenzy but not this time. It was time for more drastic measures.


You send me flying
aktarian

I like to think of myself as different than other women. Human women, just to be clear. So I do things with Ben that his other girlfriends didn’t do. Not take advantage of him, not getting him arrested and sent to jail, play fetch in my demon form, that sort of thing. It’s really rewarding when you do nice things for your partner, they give back. Unless they are demons, then they just treat you like crap no matter what. But anyway, the other night Ben set up things really nicely for us. Lit some fire to make me feel more at home, set up a bench so we were comfortable and so on. Ah, he is such a romantic soul¸ he really is. And it seems we’ve been together for two months now and he wanted to do something special. I was about to mention that deer I kept for special occasion (like this one, for example) but he immediately ruled out anything involving sacrificing animals so that wasn’t going to happen. So I suggested we go flying rather than on rodeo. I was really happy that he agreed and we’ll do this.

 

And since Ben is spending so much time at my place (voluntary now, thank you very much) I thought it would be a good idea to put some human furniture there so he would be more comfortable. Don’t ask me where I got it, I don’t want angry locals showing up at my place with lit torches. Look, I’m not considering career in interior design or anything, but I think it turned out quite nicely. A mattress and a comfortable chair so he can sleep more comfortably and I can watch him sleep. Yes, as a matter of fact I do that. So imagine my surprise when Ben showed up at my barn with a big board full of various pictures. I had no clue what it was about so I did what humans do in situations like this, smile, nod and try to figure what is going on. It looked like Ben wasn’t afraid of flying but of loving himself and was reluctant to fly with me because of that. Hey, don’t ask me how those things are connected, I was just smiling, nodding and trying to figure out what he was talking about. But it seemed that somehow that board gave him courage, even over confidence. I mean flying to the moon? How silly is that? Astronauts were those suits for a reason, you know.

 

Well, at least I thought he was ready to fly with me. What, a demon can’t be wrong sometimes? So, next day we were having a really romantic dinner on some terrace and I was ready to go when Ben backed down. Again. It wasn’t his refusal to be loved after all but good old fear of flying. I get it, first time we flew it probably wasn’t good for him but this was getting really silly. It took me quite an effort to convince him. I explained to him that only way to overcome your fear is to confront it head on. I know I sounded like one of those motivational speakers but this is actually true. But hey, at least I wasn’t wearing pink sweatpants. I told him how I overcame my fear of blood and how he must do same. Seriously, if I knew it would be this much trouble I wouldn’t have suggested flying in the first place. Or would bring extra bottle or two to dinner. But anyway, he was finally ready to fly so I acted quickly before he changed his mind once again. I changed into my demon from, grabbed him, threw him from the terrace and jumped after him. I think he liked it in the end. That is after he stopped screaming. And opened his eyes. I of course took great care not to injure him. My claws are sharp, you know. Anyway, when we landed he naturally had to have a drink but I didn’t mind. And it turns out that rodeo he was talking about wasn't rodeo at all. But it was fun anyway. Will do that again sometimes. As well as flying. A girl has to take care of her man, right?


Demons are not snacks
aktarian

I know, I know. I'm pretty and I drive Ben crazy but this getting out of hand. I mean, I like him a lot, but he is always there, wanting to be with me and all. I like it but it’s getting a bit hard to handle. I like spending time with him but I need some space. Not just for my impressive wingspan but for myself. I never was good with company. Sure, I hung out with fellow demons but we had a lot in common. Exchanging fun stories of tormenting souls, remembering good possessions, mayhem we caused on Earth and such. But with Ben it’s different. For one he is human and he doesn’t share my passion for ripping out internal organs. For another he keeps saying he is love. Love, huh, imagine that. I was really hoping that his talk about sex being cornerstone of relationship was his way of saying what he wanted. That I can deal with, love… not so much. Relations between different beings can be so complicated, you never know what you are walking into. Demons are predictable, you know what to expect and you get it. And shared interests make things easier. I never figured what makes human tick. I mean heart pumps the blood through their body and they die when you rip it out but why they do things they do is a mystery. And besides, I’m a demon, I’m attracted to demonish stuff. OK, evil stuff then.

 

I was hoping Andi would be a help, seeing how she is going out with Devil’s son and all. She did offer some advice, like being honest with Ben and telling him how I feel. That sounded so far out it might just work. Well, Ben is different than demons I’m used to date, so truth might just work. Later. I’d do it but I really didn’t want to go to that trip Sam planned for all of us. He was supposed to catch a soul or something and asked others to join him. Bad idea. Never mix work and fun, that’s what I always say. OK, it’s one thing to have fun working, like I do downstairs, but another to combine your off-time with work. Never worked so far. So I found an excuse not to join them and stayed at home. Besides I developed a craving for llamas. Do you know how hard it is to find a good llama around here? They don’t grow on trees and you have to know right people to get one. Sure you can get old and scrawny one easy but they are not any good. You feed them garlic to get them more tasty and then….. yummy.

 

However good the prospect of eating a llama was I started to miss Ben. He was growing on me, and I mean that in a good way. Sure he was constantly complimenting me but then again, constant compliments are nice, aren’t they? And despite him wanting to spend all the time with me this did make me feel good. So I decided to surprise him by just showing up. In retrospect I realize I should have planned things a bit more carefully. Yes, I knew there was a soul loose in the town but I thought I could handle it, I’ve been dealing with souls a long time. Yes, they can get somewhat displeased with their situation and don’t act that nice when they escape. But I am a demon and it was just a soul. Things looked quite normal when I showed up. Sure place looked empty but I’m used to big city by now so what do I know how small towns are supposed to look like. Seeing how Ben and others like to hang out at a bar I thought I should stop by one there, to see if they are in. It was empty though. I should have seen that things are not normal, normal by earth standards I mean, but I somehow missed it. Only later did I smell the bartender. He smelled of sulfur, smell I recognized from Home. But it was too late to get away, the bartender grabbed me and dragged me down.

 

I guess I passed out or something then because next thing I remember I was surrounded by darkness and it smelled awful. Not of sulfur, that smell is familiar and nice, but like bowel. Yes, I do know how bowel smells like, I ripped my share of them out so I am familiar with them. My skin also tingled. Not quite burning feeling, more like soft scratching. Not altogether unpleasant though. But I knew I had to get out fast. Sam was in town and this was obviously the soul he was looking for. While I could wait to exit by natural way that method is not as good as it seems. Were it just the head that would go but I’m quite attached to having my body attached to the head so that was out. But we demons have all sorts of nifty tools to use. Like teeth, claws and such, so I got to work. It took me a while to get out but I managed to do it eventually. So there I was, stuck in what looked like a mine shaft. Luckily I can see well in the dark, one of the perks of being a demon. The longer it took me to get out the more pissed off I got. No need to judge me, how would you feel in my position? So when I finally got to the entrance something hit me in the head. It didn’t hurt but I was getting really angry by then. So after being eaten by some crazy soul I’ll get pelted by various things as well? Oh no, I woun’t, not by a long shot. So I threw the thing back out and flew outside getting ready to rip something, or somebody, apart. But unfortunately Sam stopped me before the fun could begin and I could work went my frustration. He wanted the other guy to live because apparently reapers don’t kill people. Hmmm, didn’t know that but then again, what do I know about reaper business. I only figured out his plan later. He wanted him to suffer and leaving him alive would do that much more than simply killing him. And everybody says what a kind and completely non-evil person he is. Riiiiiiiight. I liked that evil streak in him. So I kissed him. No, it wasn’t a big deal. Yes, I’m with Ben but as I said earlier, Ben is not evil and demons need their dose of evil to keep sane. That’s what makes us demons, after all. But if you are thinking I’m leaving Ben for Sam you are mistaken. Besides, he is Boss’ son and he is bound to hang around and I don’t want him to see me. I’m sure you understand why. Besides, Ben is Ben and has qualities of his own, you know. He was really happy to see me then and I could tell he was worried about me. It may not be pure evil on his part but maybe I should start looking for different things in boyfriends.


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