Lead vs Fantasy 1-2

Author’s note:  So I still haven’t put this up anywhere people can find it, but I feel like I should stick to at least a weekly schedule anyway.  

Hopefully the strange spacemen in the future who read this find it entertaining or something.  

1-2  The Newbie’s dead long live the Newbie.

Cauliflower’s arms felt like jelly.  It’d already been an hour since she’d stopped firing that damn gun, but the after effects still remained.  Trying to shake the feeling back into them for the hundredth time, she turned to look at her teammates.  They were all busy taking useful pieces from the griffon’s corpse.  Talons, beak, feathers, and, of course, some choice steaks.

They had spent the last hour locating The Newbie and giving him the best send-off they could.  They didn’t have time for anything special, but they could at least burn the body.  Spare his corpse from becoming an undead.

Watching the body burn, Cauliflower had mixed feelings.  Of course she was sad and angry that he’d been killed.  A little.  He’d only been with them for a month.  She didn’t know him very well.  Mostly, however, she felt that she should be feeling… more.  She just wished she wasn’t so used to holding these impromptu funerals.

Shaking away the melancholy thoughts, Cauliflower started to pace.  She walked down the length of the griffon’s body and then turned to walk back.  Her numb hands couldn’t even feel the long grass that continually whipped at them as they hung at her side.

Returning to her comrades, Cauliflower shook her arms again and asked, “Does anyone know what griffon tastes like?”

“Yeah, tastes like ass,” Edge answered without looking up from his work on the corpse.

Cauliflower nodded her understanding.  It was to be expected.  All monster meat tasted terrible.  It was still important to eat, however.

She sighed and looked up to survey their surroundings.  A quick scan of the area showed nothing but grass and a dead griffon.  She’d known that already.  If there were anything around, she would have felt it.  Like an incessant prodding on her brain.  Still, she felt like she should at least look the part of a sentry.

Growing tired of the act, she started walking again.  When she returned to where her allies were working, she looked over the corpse and asked, “How old do you think it was?”

“200?”  Champ suggested with a shrug.

“150,” The Captain stated definitively.  “If it was over 200, we wouldn’t have been able to kill it without using more arts.  Even with the mounted gun.”

Cauliflower thought about that for a second.  Then she nodded.  Like that, time flowed until eventually the team was satisfied and got back on the rover.  By the time they started down the trail again, Cauliflower had regained feeling in her arms.  She did some service on the machine gun then reclaimed her position sitting on the truck’s frame.  As Cauliflower put her binoculars to her face and aimlessly perused the landscape, she heard the makings of a fight starting below.

“You know; I think now Lotus’s the one who joined last,” Champ started in a tone that sounded thoughtful, but definitely meant he was trying to get slapped.  “Doesn’t that make her the new newbie?”

“No, it doesn’t.”  Lotus replied in a definitive voice so cold it could freeze icebergs… Freeze them more than they already are.

“I’m pretty sure it does,” Champ continued happily.  “The Newbie’s dead, long live The Newbie!”

Cauliflower removed her binoculars in time to see Champ excitedly pointing into the sky… for some reason.  Before Lotus could respond to the statement, The Captain turned around in his seat and said, “Stop it with the sexual tension, you two.”

Lotus just stared at The Captain, her eyes filled with an icy flame.  Alternatively, Champ frowned at the statement and then declared, “I suck dick.”

The Captain just sighed and shook his head before responding, “I know you do, Champ.”

“What?”  Champ asked, throwing his hands up.  “I like how it feels.  Plus, that way you have all the power.”

Cauliflower could feel her own brows furrow at the declaration and she said, “You.. you just don’t.  Cause you’re the one with a dick in your mouth.”

“You’ve never felt true power until you’ve been in that situation where you know that, with one bite, you could change a man’s life forever,” Champ rebutted happily.

Hearing that, The Captain’s expression froze.  Cauliflower could feel the frame under her vibrate with Knot’s shudder.  Then Knot shouted, “Let alone a man, you don’t deserve to be a human being.”

“You know, this one time, the guy was so big-“

“You can call me whatever you want,” Lotus interjected quickly.  “Just don’t tell that story again.”

“I win again.  All I do is win!”  As Champ shouted, he threw his hands into the sky and pumped them a few times.

“Cause you have no shame.”  Lotus rebutted as she glowered at him.

“Shame is for losers.  Like you.  You’re a loser, Newbie.” Champ responded with an unforgivably smug expression.  “I, however, am a winner.  That’s why I’m Champ.”

“You’re Champ because you have the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old.”  Lotus responded, crossing her arms and leaning back against the rover’s railing.

“He’s Champ because Lotus over there joined right after you got your first kill.”  The Captain cut in, looking into the sky in reminiscence.  “I didn’t have time to come up with a nickname.  So… Champ, cause good job killing a goblin.”

“That’s… just sad.”  Cauliflower observed, trying to give champ a sympathetic look.

Champ just looked down at his feet for a moment.  Then he looked up and said, “If we want to talk about nicknames, why don’t we tell the story of how lotus got hers.  We all know it, we can tell it in rounds.”

“Stop talking now!” Lotus commanded, her face trying desperately to keep its calm veneer as a faint blush of embarrassment spread across it.

“What?”  Champ asked happily.  “Are you ashamed of your innate poetic talents?”

“We aren’t talking about that,” Lotus declared, regaining some of her icy composure.  “Never again.”

Cauliflower just shook her head.  She could never quite understand the various things that got Lotus all ashamed.  Cauliflower never really bothered with anything so complicated as shame.  If she thought something, she said it.  If she liked something she went after it.  Though, she wasn’t gleefully vulgar like Champ.  Well, not exactly like that, anyway.  Whatever the case, Cauliflower felt like life would be easier if Lotus opened up a bit more.  Like a lotus blossom!

Nodding happily at her unintended wordplay, Cauliflower thought of something good.  Then she kicked the thigh of Edge, who was sprawled across the rover’s bed in front of her.  “What do you think about all this?”  She asked with a light smile.

Edge just groaned in response then cracked one eye to glare at her.  “Think about what?” he eventually croaked.

“Now that the Newbie’s dead, Lotus is the new newbie,” Champ supplemented eagerly.  “You know, because she joined last.”

Edge turned a cold, grumpy gaze towards Champ and then dismissively declared, “That’s dumb and you’re dumb.”

Hearing the off-handed statement, Champ deflated a little.  The Captain gave a sarcastic smile and observed, “So energetic.”

Edge shifted his eyes towards The Captain and shrugged, “I’m tired.  I’ve been having a lot of late nights recently.”

Before that could be delved into, Lotus cleared her throat a little too intrusively and said, “We should be getting close to the place, right?  Shouldn’t we be going over the mission soon?”

The Captain grinned and nodded. “Sure, sure.  This is all pretty straight forward.  If everyone read the materials I handed out, it shouldn’t require much explanation.”

At that declaration, Champ tried to avoid The Captain’s gaze while Cauliflower replaced the binoculars against her face and took a renewed interest in her work.

The Captain sighed and continued.  “A remote village in the region has gone radio silent recently.  They aren’t particularly economically important so they’ve just been keeping on a weekly check-in with the officials in San Ranto.  Contact was a day overdo when they posted the request.  Three when we departed.  Add a day and a half for travel…”

“They’ve been silent for four and a half days minimum.”  Edge frowned at the thought.  “That’s a long time to hide your scent from a marauding monster.”

The Captain nodded slowly.  “The village is too far afield and the information is too little to send the knights.  Thus, we got the job.  There’s always the possibility that someone got drunk and sat on their transmitter or something.  However, if they were attacked, we can expect a bloodbath.”

“What’re their defenses like?”  Cauliflower asked curiously, once again allowing the binoculars to fall onto her chest.

“Pretty typical for a settlement like this,” The Captain answered quickly.  “The perimeter is guarded by an electric fence.  However, it shouldn’t have enough voltage to be fatal.  It’s just a deterrent.  Living out here, the villagers should be armed and decent shots, but it doesn’t seem any retired soldiers or mercs live there.”

“No Artes and no proper fortifications,” Lotus observed with a blank expression.  “Just one wendigo should be able to destroy the place if it’s determined.”

“That’s about right,” The Captain agreed.  “We have no idea what we’re facing.  It could be anything from nothing to a dragon.  These northern areas are dominated by mammalian monsters, but that’s about all we can say.”

“What a pain in the ass,” Edge groaned and looked across at the setting sun as he complained.  Then he turned to face The Captain and asked, “What if whatever struck them has already left?  I’m not wandering through the woods looking for a giant floating question mark for days.  Whenever we try that, it doesn’t end well.”

“Woods?”  Champ interrupted curiously.

“Yeah, woods.”  Edge answered, waving his arm towards the front of the rover.

Cauliflower turned to face the front and saw a dense, arboreal line obstinately demarking the end of the grasslands.

“Damn forests and their trees,” Champ muttered bitterly from behind her.

Then The Captain took an audibly deep breath.  When their attention had returned to their fearless leader, he said, “This time, we’re just being paid to go to the village, check on its status, and collect information if we find the place ransacked.  Enemy subjugation is just for a bonus.”

Hearing the word bonus, greed glittered in the eyes of Champ and Lotus while Edge just frowned at the two respectively.  Cauliflower had a complicated relationship with the word bonus.  Of course, the concept was always tempting, but the men who drew up contracts knew that all too well.  Often times bonuses were just used to get unthoughtful mercs to go a thousand miles out of the way for a few extra bucks.

Ignoring the faces of his team, The Captain continued.  “If we get there and don’t find the monsters in the village, then that’s it.  We count heads… or whatever we can find.  Then we see if there’s anything to scavenge and leave within four hours.  If this place is a ghost town, I doubt anyone’s coming to resettle.  Letting the monster get away this time shouldn’t have too many consequences.”

Lotus and Champ’s eyes became sullen at that declaration while Cauliflower just nodded.  A wise decision as ever.  That was why she joined this team.  Well, no.  She joined because she was hungry and they were willing to recruit a scout with a history like hers.  However, that was why she stayed.  It’s not often you see a mercenary band whose leadership has such good reasoning.


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2 thoughts on “Lead vs Fantasy 1-2

  1. Pingback: Lead vs Fantasy 1-1 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

  2. Pingback: Lead vs Fantasy 1-3 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

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