((76 — Confined))
July 1st, 802 AT.
The tram rolled down towards the dock, creaking as it went. This car wasn't like the others Kasby had seen--it was old and dilapidated, looking like a remnant of an earlier era. Clearly people didn't come down here from on high much.
The Storm District stretched out in front of the dusty windows, a vast expanse of corrugated gray and rust-red rooftops, narrow lines of darkness marking the alleyways between them. Here and there, lights cast pools of pale yellow in the otherwise-dim night.
Kasby stepped out of the tram car and pushed one side of his coat back to rest his hand loosely on the handle of the dartpistol. He walked out into the district, his boots thudding clearly through the empty streets. It was the second night since his arrival at Sector One, and he had yet to sleep. There had been reports of sightings of Jaz all over the city, but each had proven to be a dead end. Every time he felt like he might find her, he found nothing at all. He wasn’t about to stop looking, though.
Ahead of him, the door to one of the warehouses rolled open with a too-loud creaking. A short, roundish man covered in engine grease stepped out. The thick pair of black goggles over his eyes shone pale beams of light over Kasby, inspecting him. The man shook his head. "So you're all Inner could spare, eh? Not s'prised."
Kasby nodded at the man in a professional manner. A detached one. His eyes scanned the surroundings intensely.
The man wiped one hand on pants that probably only made it greasier, then extended it to Kasby. "M' name's Stern, Darryl Stern."
Kasby shook the man's hand tightly with his own gloved hand. "Kasby Bellflo—Bellwood."
Stern grunted in response, putting his hand back in his pocket. "And you're looking for the... creature." His mouth fouled up around the word, and a small shudder went through the man.
"Yes," Kasby said in a neutral, careful tone.
The older man laughed bitterly. "Shouldn't be too hard to find her."
Kasby's eyes drifted upwards, towards the rooftops. "Why do you say that?"
Stern stepped out of the doorway, clearing Kasby's view to inside, and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Just follow the bodies."
Inside the warehouse, half a dozen bodies were strewn, all in varying states of dismemberment. A trail of blood ran from one to the next and out the back door of the mostly-empty warehouse.
Kasby grimaced. His eyes were cold. Hard. "How are you still alive?"
The man faltered, eyes dropping. "I..." He coughed once, twice, then pushed his goggles to his forehead and looked Kasby square in the eyes. "I got the fuck out of that thing's way and didn't even try to stop it, that's how."
Kasby matched his stare. "No room for heroes in the Void, right?"
"Just survivors,” Stern said.
"And the walking dead," Kasby added to himself quietly as he walked past the shorter man. The captain began to follow the trail Jaz had left for him.
Stern said nothing as he left.
The path was easy enough. Blood and gore marked the men and women before him, long gouges left in their bodies, the mirror of gouges Kasby himself had left enough times to recognize.
The trail left the first warehouse, moving into the second, then a third, then a fourth. Over containers and cargo and spare parts. Where there wasn't gore and death, there was a steady trail of droplets of blood, fallen from the tip of the crystal blade.
Kasby followed the trail at first as if in a trance. His footsteps left soft echoes as his eyes went from drop to drop, wound to wound. The farther he went, the more he picked up speed. His tracking became frantic, his expression set in dead intensity.
As he went faster, the blood got fresher. One thing didn't change, though:
There were no wounded. Only the dead.
Kasby was at a full run, now, and his bootsteps thumped and rang out loudly throughout the warehouse. From ahead, the sound of a scream echoed towards him, reverberating through the warehouses like a megaphone. It stopped abruptly.
Kasby pulled the dartpistol from its holster and tore into the next warehouse, stopping a few feet inside.
The warehouse was full of old construction machinery. Dilapidated cranes sat rusting throughout. A grisly tableau was perched atop one of the cranes at the far end of the room.
She stood, back to Kasby, crystal blade held high, struck through the chest of a girl not much younger than Kasby. As he watched, the creature moved its arm and let the body drop to the floor dozens of feet below with a wet thud. It flicked the crystal blade, sending the blood running down its clear faces spattering away.
Kasby watched the spectacle coldly. His weapon was trained on the monster atop the crane. With a deft hand, he pulled the trigger. A tremor went through his body, shaking him to the core, as he fired a volley.
The crystal shards sliced through the air, leaving a quiet whistle in the air. Two shot past the creature. The third thudded into its shoulder. It dropped off the crane, howling in pain and anger. The fall became a flip, though, and it landed deftly into a roll, coming up whirling to face Kasby. Its eyes still glowed that bloodthirsty red, shining against blackened skin. The goggles lenses now permanently embedded into the thing's forehead shone with reflected red light, looking almost like a second set of eyes, eerily watching on behalf of someone--something--else.
Kasby's weapon was still pointed straight at the creature, but his hand trembled uncontrollably now. Jaz. His mouth formed the words, without any sound. Please.
The creature that had been his lover let out a shrieking cackle, and charged him.
Still holding his gun in his left hand, Kasby pulled Jaz’s crystal sword from its sheath at his side and raised it up to block her attack. The blow hammered in with all the force of her inhuman diving gait, an overhead swing full of rage and insanity. The twin blades met with a crash that filled the warehouse.
Kasby was thrown back by the force of the blow, but the blade did not shatter. His arm throbbed from absorbing the impact. He steadied himself before he fell and switched his balance, to hold the sword in something resembling a fighting stance.
She laughed, that sound that was almost familiar but horribly alien, and struck again, pushing forward. He swatted away her first attack with his blade. With his other hand, holding the dartgun, he tried to pistol whip the creature across the face. The hit caught the creature as it was still bringing its blade back up, slamming into its cheek and dropping it to the ground. Almost instantly, it lashed out with its sword, swinging wildly at Kasby's feet.
The blade sliced into one of Kasby's shins. He grimaced in pain but leapt backward using his other leg, curling into a roll and coming up in a shooting stance. He pulled the trigger again.
The creature was halfway to its feet when the crystal thudded into its left leg. It howled in agony, dropping to the ground and clutching at its wound with its hand.
Kasby pushed himself forward as he rose, throwing that momentum into a flying tackle. He hit the demon, hard, knocking it all the way flat. He used all of his weight to keep the creature down, and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead.
It laughed again, thrashing against him, then seemed to cough and choke. A yellow sheen passed briefly over the lenses on its forehead, and it coughed again, this time exhaling a breath of yellow smoke.
Kasby's heart beat a staccato rhythm in his chest. He held the weapon in place, though he trembled everywhere.
The creature's solid red eyes squeezed closed, and a deep voice boomed out of the creature's mouth, powerful and male. "NOT YET. I STILL HAVE USE FOR THIS ONE." The yellow smoke swirled around Kasby, pouring out of nowhere to cover the demon he was pinning to the warehouse floor.
"NO!" Kasby screamed out against the yellow smoke. "DON'T TAKE HER!" He pressed himself down, gripping the deep, black skin tightly, the pistol having dropped from his fingers. "Not again!" he sobbed into the smoke.
His cries echoed through empty yellow mist. He was alone in the warehouse. He collapsed onto the crystal floor, his forehead pressed hard into the cool material. Though sobs wracked his body, his face remained dry. He had no tears left to shed.