I'd never seen him write anything before (though he roleplays ingame, I'm pretty sure that written RP isn't really his thing) so imagine my surprise when he wrote not one, but TWO flash fics for the party.
Not only that, they're pretty good stories. A bit violent, but that's kinda par for the course with the submissions I've seen so far.
It should be mentioned that I have punched Verdus IRL before. It was fun, though most of the time it wasn't deserved, and he was a good sport.
Enjoy the read!
Word count: 999 words
I had to fight to stay conscious. For centuries I sat there, sprawled against the clear, cold cylinder behind me, conspicuously ignoring the enraged and incoherent screams of the dead man I'd trapped inside.
There wasn't a single part of me that didn't hurt. Simply breathing felt like someone was prying open my ribcage with a crowbar. That meant at least one cracked rib, probably more. Crimson blood oozed from the lacerations on my chest, arms, and legs, dripping down through the metal grille comprising the floor; I stopped counting after two dozen gashes. The bruises were already starting to form. I figured that if I managed not to bleed out I'd probably be a solid mass of purple within three hours.
Taking stock of my injuries helped. One of the things that Nathan had taught me all those years ago was the simple mind-over-body power of a calm, detached analysis. "Keep the mind working when you're injured, Peter," he'd told me once during training. "Quantify, analyze, extrapolate. Focus on facts, assess the situation and risks dispassionately. Let the fear and the pain and all the rest of the emotional baggage fade to the background, then get back up and get back on mission." He'd punctuated the lesson by breaking my arm, which seemed a little extreme at the time, but he'd been right. Of course, Nathan was always right, just like he was always so damned focused. Stay on mission, always stay on mission.
Judging from the battering on the containment cylinder wall at my back, though, Nathan seemed to be having a little trouble taking his own advice. A mirthless grin spread across my rapidly-swelling face of its own accord and I let out a chuckle before I could stop myself. The skewers of burning agony that simple act shot through my torso nearly put me out, and I couldn't afford that. The job wasn't done, not yet.
Clutching the cold stainless steel of the guardrail with both hands, I slowly, carefully forced myself to my feet. Somewhere in the dim, pain-addled haze of my mind, I registered a voice yelling at me from behind. Words, even. Whether I consciously ignored him or was simply incapable of comprehending anything more at the time, I can't honestly say. As I shuffled my way towards the control platform a foot at a time, clinging to the rail to keep myself standing, those words gradually started to assemble themselves into coherent thought.
"...don't know what you're doing, Peter!" I half-heard Nathan yell from a lifetime away. I idly wondered, as I inched closer to the gantry stairs ahead of me, how he managed to project his voice through three inches of whatever the hell that cylinder wall was made of. By the time I'd reached the base of the steps, I'd decided that I didn't want to know just how loud he was making things on the inside, or what kind of... alterations he'd made to himself to make such a thing possible.
Five steps or five miles, it was all the same climbing up to the control platform. Crawling up those metal grille steps on my hands and knees ravaged my open palms, one of the few parts of my body which had, until then, been relatively intact. Might as well be thorough, right? By the time I reached the top, the traitor's words were getting difficult to tune out completely. I think he was trying to explain why he'd done it. Yes, that was definitely it. One last desperate rationalization to save his own skin.
"Dammit, Peter, it was necessary! Even you have to see that, now that you know what's at stake!" Having crowned the stairs, I pulled myself back to my unsteady feet and resumed stumbling to my goal, mere meters away now, amazed and bewildered at what I was hearing. After all the lies he'd told, all the damage he'd done, all the lives he'd stolen... After Nina... He was actually trying to reason with me. With me! The rage began to build anew in my chest, a raw, vicious, and infinitely cold hatred, driving me towards my destination with a renewal of something bearing a passing resemblance to vigor.
By the time I finished shambling my way to the control console, Nathan had fallen silent. I didn't turn to look at him, but I could still feel his stare pressing down on me. Back in the beginning I would have quailed under the intensity of that laser-bore gaze, just as so many others had broken under it since I first met him. Part of me still wonders what would have gone differently if I'd actually tried to meet his eye then. I guess we'll never know.
As he drilled holes in me with his eyes, I worked the controls by rote memory, albeit much more slowly than before in other, near-identical labs. No steps of the checklist were skipped as I executed the power-up sequence. I wasn't taking the chance of botching this by rushing things. Pressure levels, capacitor charge, safeties on the exotic elements... I overlooked nothing and the pain seemed to recede as I gave my mind over to familiar routine. Systems throughout the vast chamber came to life, a symphony of hums, whirrs, and whines.
As I neared the end of the sequence, he spoke one last time. "I'll give it to you straight, Pete. If you do this, if you kill me like this, here in this place, you'll be damning the human race to extinction. Billions of people will die, Peter. Billions, with a B. Is it worth that, Peter? Is she worth that?"
I knew he was lying, of course, just like all the other lies. It was obvious he was lying, he had to be. And yet my hand hovered over the final button which would unmake the monster, atom by atom. At the time, I felt ashamed for hesitating.
Now, I'd give anything to have listened.