The Psychic Box Part 1

Why did I agree to this? It was such a stupid request. Take this mystery package on a plane, nothing will go wrong. Sure, it’s been through the security, but why does this guy want it on the plane? Of course, now that I’m on board, there’s not much I can do about it, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it once I get to my destination. Sitting here with it in my lap isn’t helping my curiosity any, either. I’ve done the shaking trick, even though it never helped work out my Christmas presents. The package was a sort of rounded cube, which seemed odd considering that wouldn’t make for very efficient packaging. It was wrapped in paper bag materials, and I had some paper bags in my bags. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to unwrap it and then I could re-wrap it with the bags I had.

Halfway to Chicago, I finally gave in. I slowly unwrapped it, being careful not to rip too much in case I could salvage its wrapping. If you’ve ever seen any sci-fi you probably have an idea of what sort of object I found inside. It was indeed a rounded cube, and it had branching, glowing lines along it. Those lines were only dimly glowing when I first unwrapped it, but it slowly started to glow brighter and brighter. At that point, I was pretty concerned about it, and started to hurriedly wrap it up again, but too late.

I felt the plane shift, but instead of righting itself as it usually would, it continued to shift. We were going down, and fast. Before I could finish wrapping the object, it flew out of the packaging and floated in front of me as I held on to my seat. “I’m sorry about the transport, but it was a necessary side-effect of my activation.”

“Who said that?” I asked. No one paid me any heed, as we were now almost vertical, and everyone was focusing on not falling forward, even though the cabin was almost in zero-g.

“If I said that I did, you would not understand. However, if I wait until only you remain, you will have to understand that this cube said it.”

“Seriously!? Until only I remain?”

“Assuming this transport continues on its current course, it shall collide with the ground at high speed, the laws of physics will take control, and everyone will die. However, I intend to protect you against such an outcome. The others are expendable.”

“How are you supposed to protect me? Your just a voice!” By now we had reached the point where the plane was perfectly simulating a zero-g environment, so now everyone was focusing on screaming.

“If you really do not trust me, perhaps you should float down to the bridge and try to rectify the situation, and once you have realized the futility of the situation perhaps we will have crashed. Then you will see that I was right.”

“Right, well, I’m going down there.” I had never flown a plane, and had no idea what I would do when I got down there, but I figured I would either die or be a hero. As I floated down through the cabins, the cube floated along beside me.

“By the way, you should know that only you could hear me. I just found it amusing to hear you talking to a cube like a madman. You can just think it to me, I’ll hear it just fine that way.” As I got to the cockpit and reached for the handle of the door, the voice spoke again, “You have fifteen seconds to right the transport, a physical impossibility given the transport’s shape and method of acceleration. Ten seconds. The people who built me will either be very proud of their acheivement, or you will be dead.”

“You said I would live!”

“I may have lied.”

Collision. Gravity. The front of the plane moves inward, becomes the middle of the plane. Death. Crushed against the front of the plane. Walls dividing. Split to many pieces. Fire. Flames exploding, engulfing the plane.

We’re All Mad Here

     Everyday they pass by. Clock says it’s always at the same time every day, but I have my doubts. He says a lot of things happen at the same time every day. Most of them don’t bother with a uniform here, why bother? People see what they want to see, after all, we’re all mad here.

The man in blue stands next to me for, Clock says, two hours. Why doesn’t he go with the others? And why is he in uniform? Is he not mad? No, he just doesn’t think he is, like Light and Clock and everyone else. We’re all mad here, whether we admit it or not.

Window was asking about the men’s faces, are they of sorrow or delight? Clock thinks it’s sorrow, because they must be sad about being stuck in here. Light suggested that it was both sorrow and delight, because they must be happy to be with like-minded people, even if they’re stuck here.

I think it’s pure delight, but they don’t care about each other. They just think their mad thoughts, and that makes them happy, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. We are all mad here, why should we care where we are?

Chicago Part 4

With that strange encounter out of the way, Kitsune made her way to the building where she had sent Dianzi and Criana. Now that she had eaten, she decided to test what the soldier had said. Finding a patrol, she hid behind a corner and called out, “Hey, any of you seen the Countess?”

In uncanny unison, the soldiers responded, “Pretenders fall at the sight of royalty.” Kitsune came out from her hiding place. “This and the neighboring blocks of the city are the Countess’s. You’re your friends to leave your hiding place, we take that area tonight. You are against the Doctor, so we let you live. If you are against us, too, you will die. Go. You have one hour.”

“How far do we need to go?”

“When you think you’ve gone far enough, keep running. We expect the Doctor’s new creations will make an appearance.”

His new creations? Kitsune continued leaping to the hideout. The Doctor always created counterparts to the ones who escape. Kitsune had Doreiku, a flier Kitsune had known, Sora Koku, had been matched with a Native American archer. Both those last two were dead. Sora Koku had been shot by the Native American, who Kitsune killed afterwards.

These new creations were probably two or more of that kind. Dianzi, Criana, the Countess, and Pernixa still lacked counterparts to Kitsune’s knowledge. Of course, she might have just not seen the Countess or Pernixa’s yet. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been out.

She arrived shortly before the hour was up. There were heightened patrols around the hideout, but it didn’t look like they knew about it. Kitsune managed to leap to the roof without alerting any of the soldiers, and then slipped inside through a hole in the roof. “Dianzi?” she hissed.

“Over here,” he replied. Kitsune walked over. “What are the soldier doing out there?” he asked, “Are they looking for us?”

“No, unless they’re getting sloppy. They’re just patrolling the streets. Listen, a rogue faction of soldiers is going to attack very soon, and we need to leave.”

Dianzi paused for a few seconds, seemingly listening to something else, and then said, “No, the soldiers are brainwashed to serve the Doctor. It’s not possible for them to go rogue.”

“It’s a new player, the Countess. She’s somehow controlling them. Now, come on. Where’s Criana?”

In answer, Criana came running up. “There are even more soldiers coming into the streets around here,” she said.

“It’s starting soon, come on!” Kitsune urged. Criana ran back to wherever she was watching from.

Dianzi paused again, listening. What was he listening to? “How do you know about the attack?” he asked.

“One of the soldiers told me at the behest of the Countess.”

Still not moving, Dianzi said, “Why?”

“I don’t know, but could we please get going? New creations are expected in the battle. People like us, only on the Doctor’s side.”

Thunder! The battle had begun. Kitsune could outrun almost anything, so she could stay as long as need be, but Dianzi and Criana were too slow. “Why are you stalling?” Kitsune asked through grated teeth.

“The voice in my head told me to,” he said, smiling.

Kitsune rolled her eyes, and noticed Criana running up again. “The soldiers are fighting each other,” she said.

A sound that puts gunfire’s thunder to shame roared out as a section of the wall a few yards away shattered, followed closely by several dead soldiers and a chunk of metal. My reflexes got me out of the blast radius, while Dianzi put out a green bubble that blocked the debris from hitting either him or Criana.

Shortly after, there were several red flashes from outside and occasional cracks formed in the wall. Kitsune jumped up to the roof and carefully looked along the streets. Soldiers fired with obvious paranoia, who’s to say the soldier next to you isn’t one of the rogues? But that wasn’t what drew Kitsune’s attention the most. What she noticed were the two new creations.

They were the counterparts to Dianzi and Criana. One seemed to be formed from rocks themselves. He shrugged off gunfire like it was nothing, and knocked soldiers aside indiscriminately. The other was in a black cloak that reminded Kitsune of a warlock’s, and it had glowing, red runes all over it. The part that really connected him to Dianzi was his power—red energy blasts. Pair up the defensive against the offensive.

Kitsune wondered if the Countess would make an appearance, and then remembered that she was still trying to help Dianzi and Criana. Why was she trying to help them? She guessed it was her reverend’s voice in her head telling her to help those in need. She leapt back down through the hole.

She had obviously missed something. Criana was backed against a pillar, fear present in her tears. Dianzi seemed to be concentrating on something else entirely. “Criana?” Kitsune asked softly.

She looked up at Kitsune and said, “The Rock is my dad.”

Chicago Part 3

As Kitsune leapt throught the city, she could feel a storm coming from the west. She would have to deal with these new renegades quickly. At least they seem to be able to handle themselves, when they’re together, anyway. One can attack and one can defend. Easier to break a team than one person.

They were standing by the lake when she arrived. Deciding against the surprise approach, as much as she wanted to hurry things along, she walked quickly up to them. “We have to do this quickly, so what are your names?” Kitsune said quickly.

“Dianzi Moshu, miss,” said the man. Kitsune noticed he had a cybernetic arm and leg on the same side as the cybernetics on his face.

“Criana Vahsi, and you don’t get a title from me,” said the kid. To Kitsune’s surprise, it was a girl’s voice. She had been assuming the kid was a boy due to the shorter hair, the baseball cap, and the strength. Basically distracted by looks.

“Nor should I, Criana,” Kitsune replied, and then looked at Dianzi and said, “Did you just escape?”

“Yes.”

“Right. There’s a place to the east, Steel Solutions Firm, where you can hide out. It’s got some food and water. I’ll meet you there once the storm’s passed.”

“Are the storms more dangerous now?” Dianzi asked.

“No, I… just have to do something.” Kitsune began to walk away.

“Miss?” It was Criana, “What’s your name?”

“Kitsune Sentoki, the Fox of Chicago.” She leapt.

Kitsune could hear the distant thunder. She would have to hurry, the Collapse had sped the storms up. Already she was getting shivers. She had to find somewhere to hide. Where didn’t the soldiers patrol? Quick, quick! She didn’t have much time. There! That building’s safe, but wait, no basement. She kept leaping. Thunder roared as she made a jump, knocking her off balance and causing her to miss the roof slightly. She scrambled up and kept running as the rain began to fall.

There, that one has a basement. She leapt to an open window on the ground floor and climbed through. As the rain fell harder, Kitsune ran down the stairs the the basement. She stumbled as thunder roared right overhead, and then quickly huddled in the corner.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” Kitsune began. Whenever there was a storm, she would recite this verse, Psalm 23:4, and by the end of the verse, she would speak whatever words came to her. She never paid attention to what she said, other than that it was a prayer to God, for the storm and anything else. It was a method her Reverand had taught her before the Collapse.

After who knows how long, the storm abated, and, with it, Kitsune’s prayer. She stumbled up the stairs into the light of twilight. Had it only been a few hours, or was it not even the same day? Her stomach suggested it was the day after. Before the Collapse, her friends would help her through and after the storms, but now they were all dead or missing. Now, she would have to find one of her safehouses.

Getting her bearings, she knew she wasn’t too far away from one, and began walking there. If there was a patrol, she would just have to wait for it to pass. She didn’t have the energy for leaping, let alone fighting, but she got lucky. Up until right outside the safehouse, that is.

She was just a few yards from the door, when a patrol rounded the corner just ahead of her. Thunder and lightning! She lay flat in the closest doorway. The gunfire stopped, they were probably getting closer. She tried the door, but it was locked. She could hear the soldiers calling for backup, but then silence.

Thunder and lightning! But in the opposite direction. Kitsune peeked out of her doorway and saw the countess from before. She was dodging around using her black cloud form, which looked more like a swarm of black creatures from this distance. It looked like she was trying to find an opening to attack, but couldn’t, so Kitsune made a stupid move.

She pulled out her kanabō and wrapped on the wall, shouting, “You guys going to miss a chance to shoot the Fox or what?”

One of the soldiers turned around, and immediately the black swarm rushed through him, and then each and every other soldier, one by one. They each put their free hand to their neck and collapsed. The countess stood in the middle of them, facing Kitsune.

“Who are you?” asked Kitsune.

Seemingly on a whisper of the wind the countess replied, “Pretenders to the throne will fall like the rest of the world.” And then she rushed away in her black swarm.

Kitsune hurried into her safehouse and found her store of food. Since she knew reinforcements wouldn’t be long, she ate quickly, but when she finished and carefully walked outside, there was only one, unarmed soldier, and no corpses.

“She said to tell you that not all patrols are the Doctor’s. Mention the Countess to any patrol you encounter. If they’re hers, they will respond, ‘Pretenders fall at the sight of royalty,’” he said, and then walked away.

Chicago Part 2

Kitsune was on a patrol of her own when she felt something she didn’t expect to ever feel again, a child. Twelve, maybe thirteen, years old. Running, but not scared. She stopped and turned her cat like ears back and forth, trying to pinpoint the source. North-east, not far.

Leaping from building to building, Kitsune could feel more. Slowly, the feeling of soldiers also crept in. Each one felt freakishly similar, to the point where she could tell that there was one out of the ordinary. He was middle-aged and also running.

Thunder, their guns were ringing out. Lightning, Kitsune spotted a group of the soldiers that were firing. Leaping across the street, she spotted who they were shooting. The man and the child were running down a narrow street with soldiers following close behind, firing on them. The man had his hands up in front of him, and a green bubble which seemed to deflect the bullets surrounded him and the child.

The street they were on was a dead-end, Kitsune knew, and was sure they knew, too. It ended just ahead, where an old brick building stood. It was going to be taken down to make way for the street to continue when the Collapse hit. The pair kept running towards it.

Just a few seconds before they reached the building, the man seemed to toss a green ball at its wall, and then the child punched straight through it. As the dust began to settle, bricks began to fly through the dust at the following soldiers, knocking them flat, and, in a few cases, knocking them out.

More escapees? The Doctor must be getting sloppy, but with every escapee comes one new minion. They might not be ready yet, but it would be one more danger to look out for. Who would Doctor Chushaki send after these? Kitsune tried to remember who commanded this area of the city.

An explosion of purple smoke in the alley below reminded her. Nikutai Doreiku, he was the one Chushaki had created to fight Kitsune. Armor was grafted to his skin in a way that maximized mobility, and he favored his fear tactics. He drew one of his katana and deftly sliced the bricks that flew from the hole in the wall.

Based on what she had seen, Kitsune didn’t think the kid could fight him, and the man seemed to only have defensive powers. Despite her predilections against being seen by the Doctor’s people, she would have to go down there, but first, the soldiers.

She unclipped her kanabō and threw it into one of them, and then followed it down. She grabbed it and hit another soldier. Doreiku swung, and Kitsune rolled back, getting another soldier on the way. A brick felled one more soldier, and Kitsune made a passing swipe at Doreiku. He parried it, as she had expected, and then pulled out his second katana.

Even with her superior reflexes, Kitsune knew she couldn’t hope to defeat Doreiku, just distract him. Despite that, the two escapees seemed intent on sticking around. She leapt just in front of the shield the man had up. She noticed he seemed to have cybernetics on one side of his face. The Doctor was expanding his repertoire. “Get out of here!” commanded Kitsune.

“Not without you,” replied the man.

“I’m fine. Go to Garfield Park, I’ll be waiting there.”

He seemed to hesitate, but then tapped the kid and started running again. Now it was just Kitsune and Doreiku. “The Doctor is very interested in getting you back,” said Doreiku.

“Well, it’s not his birthday, is it?” she replied.

“No, I suppose not. I’ll just have to revert to plan B. Termination.” He swung his katana.

Kitsune dodged back and deflected the attack. “That doesn’t seem very likely. We are a perfect match.” She made another quick strike at him.

“Too bad we don’t have a priest on hand, then,” he said as he began a flurry of attacks.

“I knew a reverend once,” she said as she dodged around the attacks, “But I don’t know where he’s at now.”

“What a shame. I know a wonderful place to get a ring.” He finished his flurry with a quick spin.

“More’s the pity. Still, not like I’ve got the time, what with all the running and the hiding.” She ducked under one sword and deflected the second.

“It was nice of you to find time for this little duel.” He gave a quick jab.

“Yes, but I’m afraid I’ve got to go now. See you around.” She jumped back, and then up to the top of a building.

“Ah, just when I was getting warmed up, too,” Doreiku shouted after her.

Chicago Part 1

Finally, a patrol. Considering the iron fist the city was ruled with, Kitsune had expected to find one quicker, but it had taken four hours for a patrol to pass under her perch. That was one advantage to the Doctor’s modifications; she could stand on a flag pole with ease, and jump down with equal ease.

She unclipped her specially balanced kanabō, a spiked club, from her waist and raised it behind her head. Paint a ceiling, and throw. The club flew down from Kitsune’s perch and stuck fast into the furthest back of the four soldiers’ heads.

Kitsune leapt from her perch and landed next to the dead soldier. Rolling, she grabbed the club and wrenched it from his head. She swung up and knocked the gun from a soldier’s hands, then around and into his head knocking him down. She then leapt to the wall of one of the buildings’ sides and up to the opposite building’s roof, the remaining two soldiers’ gunfire following her.

Thunder and lightning, and one more soldier went down, this time from a bullet. Kitsune peeked over the edge of the building. That wasn’t her. The last soldier ran to cover behind a trashed car, but a black cloud rushed in front of him and formed into a woman.

She looked like a countess to Kitsune, in a black and gold dress. The woman cocked her head at the soldier. He started to raise his gun, but stopped; dropped it. The woman became a black cloud again, and rushed through the soldier, then rushed away. The soldier put his hand to his neck, and then collapsed.

Kitsune rushed to the side of the building that was closest to where she thought the other gunshot had come from. Looking over the edge, she saw someone walking out of the alley, carrying a large revolver. It was a girl, looked to about the same age as Kitsune, and had a katana at her hip.

Dropping down silently behind her, Kitsune could see the girl was in much more flashy attire. She had a bright red shirt and a just-shy-of-bright green skirt. Her dark brown hair went down to just below her shoulders, except for a long ponytail that went to her waist.

The girl walked carefully across the street to where the last soldier had fallen and kicked him. Seeing no sign of movement she turned back towards the alley way. Calm before the storm, and then thunder and lightning.

The bullet whizzed through the space where Kitsune had been. She jumped off the wall of the alley at the girl, drawing her kanabō as she did so. Thunder and lightning. Kitsune spun around, narrowly dodging the bullet. She came down just in front of the girl, and struck the gun from her hands.

“How did I miss you?” the girl screamed.

“Bad luck,” Kitsune replied with an even voice. The girl drew her sword and swung. Kitsune dodged back and deflected the blade.

“I don’t miss,” said the girl. Another swing, another dodge.

“You just did. Twice each.”

Kitsune caught sight of movement behind the girl. She jumped back to the side of a building and launched her kanabō into the last soldier to fall. He had gotten up, but now his head was pinned to the wall.

Kitsune remained hanging onto the windowsill she had jumped to, and waited for the girl to make her move. She did. She put the flat of the blade against her nose, and then sheathed it. Kitsune let herself fall to the ground, and went and retrieved her kanabō. The girl retrieved her gun and put it in her holster on her back, and then turned to face Kitsune.

“Do you have a name, kid?” Kitsune asked.

“I’m not a kid! I’m just as old as you.”

“Age doesn’t determine if you’re a kid, kid. Mine’s Kitsune.”

“Pernixa,” she grumbled.

“And what’s special about you?” Kitsune continued.

“What?” Pernixa replied indignantly.

“What’d the Doctor give you? I’m like a cat. I’m guessing yours has something to do with not missing?”

“Oh, that. Yeah, I never miss,” Pernixa said proudly.

“Except when you do.” Pernixa glared at Kitsune. “Listen, I don’t know why he picked you, but stay out of my way next time. I can do more than dodge,” Kitsune said, gesturing to the re-dead soldier.

“Fine, get lost, then!” Pernixa yelled after Kitsune as she leapt up to the rooftops.

Either the Doctor was getting sloppy or there’s more to this girl than meets the eye, thought Kitsune. She would have to look out for information about the girl from the other patrols.