Ladies in Hades and the Dyval Wears Prada
Story - Drew - Limits
“Every Human has limits,” Drew thought to himself as he leisurely jogged through the countryside. “Even Juicers.”
It had been nearly an entire day that he’d spent running, staying on the heels of this Juicer running away from him through the woods. The Juicer running through the woods was about a subtle as a truck, and just as easy to follow. “Or as subtle as a cyborg,” thought Drew. He chuckled quietly at his own joke. It would take even less skill to follow Drew’s trail. Subtle was firmly etched into his dictionary only as the second word of a two-word phrase; the first word being “never.”
Drew’s experimental Coalition cyborg body had been serving him well for these past years. Only one major instance of damage which had been unable to be repaired had resulted in a replacement arm – at the time the only arm available had been an oversized, industrial arm with a three-finger hand. Since the rest of Drew’s cyborg body was covered in synthetic skin and was nearly human-sized, this arm stood out against the rest of his frame but helped him to be underestimated. People would just assume he was some sort of headhunter, and be completely unprepared when the rest of his body was revealed to be a powerfully capable combat robot.
This Juicer was fast, but had shown signs of fatigue and slowing down. It forced Drew to slow his own pace to avoid overtaking him. Drew knew he could overtake the chem-head at any time based on the speed with which he took off. But he decided to slow it down, letting the Juicer stay ahead and just tire himself out. Drew’s metal body was fast, and its reflexes were good, but in a fight against a seasoned, fresh Juicer he wouldn’t be able to hold back, and that could end in deadly consequences.
No, he needed this Juicer alive.
It had all started back East. Drew had gotten wind that his brother, who he hadn’t seen in almost a decade and assumed was dead, was actually alive! If Drew let himself have feelings, he would’ve felt overwhelming hope when he heard that news. But the trail hadn’t been easy to follow. It started for him at a Coalition prison, where Trent had been kept after being arrested for conspiracy with a mage. Then, by all accounts Drew could find, Trent had simply walked out and away.
Conspiracy with a mage. At least the mage had been publically executed, he had heard. Drew spat on the ground as he thought about the mage. He wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was the same one he and Trent had ran into all those years ago. He should’ve just punched him and ran away with Trent. Their involvement had led to the death of Coalition soldiers and had apparently gotten into Trent’s head that magic was actually something to try.
That was the hardest thing for Drew to come to terms with as he traced Trent’s trail slowly into the heart of Tolkeen territory. Every person interviewed, all the physical evidence he had seen, all let to the unmistakable conclusion that Trent was practicing magic. His own brother was a sellout to the Human race. Drew went through so much to get his family provided for, and Trent threw that all away. Drew’s own sacrifice was for nothing.
The trail led him to a refugee camp outside of the ruins of Tolkeen. Drew mingled with the non-humans and the mages there uneasily, but he didn’t let it show. He would do whatever he had to in order to find his brother. Everything else could wait until its proper time. Even the eventual fallout he expected to have with Trent, all that would have to wait. Now was the present. Now was the time for action.
He found some mercenaries amongst the refugees, and asking them yielded a surprising result. Yes, someone matching that description had been seen recently. No, they only heard about it from another group. Yes, they’re still around. That Juicer over there, he was with them.
The Juicer that was pointed out was standing outside one of the tents, alone. His body was heavily scarred, and he had some fresh bandages from recent wounds. He noticed that these mercs had pointed toward him and then he noticed Drew. Before Drew’s mechanical eyelids could simulate blinking the Juicer suddenly took off running, away from Tolkeen and towards the West, into the vast wilderness. With a sigh Drew started running after him. Once he figured out the speed the Juicer was running at Drew slowed down to match, patiently letting the Juicer tire himself out.
Drew was so stirred up in his own thoughts, he missed seeing that the Juicer had stopped and was waiting for him. Drew was snapped out of his mental anguish by a loud yell, followed by a powerfully built man bearing down on him, trying to pin him to the ground. Drew threw him off and righted himself easily, while the Juicer was tiredly getting back onto his feet. The chemicals were still pumping into him, but every Human has limits, and this Juicer had finally reached his.
“I will NOT go back!” The Juicer screamed at Drew, and pulled out a vibro-knife. He dropped to one knee momentarily and slashed the knife forward in blind warning to stay away.
“What are you talking about?” Drew calmly asked. He didn’t reveal any of his hidden weapons, but just stood there impassively and confidently.
“As if you don’t know, Master Sergeant Logan,” The Juicer hissed back at him. The usage of his old Coalition rank finally placed for Drew what was going on. A fresh recruit to his unit, what was it, five years ago now? This fresh recruit was another Coalition experiment – this time a Juicer. That experiment didn’t go as well as the Coalition would’ve liked though. After about a month of duty the Juicer ran off, deserting the Coalition Military, never to be heard from again. And here, it would appear, he was.
“That’s not why I’m here,” Drew calmly explained. “You saw someone I’ve been looking for. I want details.” The Juicer’s body swayed a moment longer, and then sagged in relief. He collapsed to the ground, letting the vibro-blade fall away as he did.
“What do you want to know?”
Drew grilled the Juicer for everything he knew about Trent, which wasn’t much. He recognized Trent’s description and told Drew that he passed his brother walking into Tolkeen a few days ago, as he and his own group were limping out. He didn’t know why they were going in, but he and his group had warned them about how dangerous it was. He remembered some details about the folks Trent had been travelling with, too. A young woman, nice-looking not very heavily geared. A three-eyed monster that the Juicer avoided making eye contact with. And a man in a coat with a piercing gaze who asked them as they passed if his own group’s marks they were returning with had been guilty.
That sparked another memory for Drew, of a curious gunslinger he once knew. This man supposedly followed the will of his god, punishing anyone who he felt was guilty. That punishment was usually death. If this was the same man, and he was travelling with Trent, then it should make Trent’s trail easier to follow. “What did the man in the coat call himself?” Drew asked.
“I think, he said he was a deacon? I don’t know what that means,” The Juicer admitted. He looked absolutely beat.
Drew turned his back to the Juicer. “If I were you I would keep running away. The Coalition has won the war. If they find you they won’t just turn away and let you go.” With that Drew started moving back towards the camp. He slowly picked up his pace until he was running full speed, nearly double the speed which the Juicer had been running. His thoughts turned towards digesting the information he had just received.
Tolkeen. The Heart of Evil. Trent had purposely gone into that foul city of magic, and had done so in the company of a monstrous D-Bee, The Deacon, and a mystery woman. So far this whole quest to find his brother had overpowered his hatred of magic, but now if he wanted to continue to find his brother (and he had never been closer than he was now!) he would have to willingly expose himself to all the remnants of that loathsome place and face everything he hated, all at once.
Had he finally reached his limit? He considered just staying in the refugee camp, waiting for Trent to return. He was sure Trent couldn’t stay in the city too long – not with the Coalition cleaning up the last vestiges of resistance in and around the city. Even that refugee camp itself couldn’t last too much longer. Those facts made Drew finally decide that if he was going to go into that city, now was the time. Every Human has a limit, even an ex-Human Cyborg. But that limit wouldn’t stop him today. Now was the present. Now was the time for action.