Mortal Kombat - Smoke Ch. 02byKindasortacrazy©
I'm really sorry about the wait for this one. I got caught up transferring to my university (a hell within itself), so the workload has been weighing me down. I've got the outline for chapter 3 down, so just have a little patience with me. I'm doing the best I can to juggle my writing with school and work (I don't mean to neglect you!).
Chapter 2 – Deaths and Dreams
I stare at the rearview mirror, my heart racing and my lungs seizing up. I can no longer breathe, but it's not from Smoke's damn enenra. The two Tarkatan warriors stalk through the parking lot, saliva dripping from their elongated teeth, their yes and ears tuned in for any trace of their prey. They're hunting for us – myself, Stryker, Sub-Zero and Smoke – and we're barely a hundred feet away.
Alright...we can either panic and give away our position, or stay calm and find a quieter way out of this.
As much as I want to suck in my fear and MacGyver a way out of this mess, my horror is slowly overtaking my mind, making it foggy and unsteady. Tarkatans are excellent hunters with a long history of tracking down enemies for a price – I know their orders. Once they find us, the entire store will be a mess of bodies and scrap metal. But they won't just kill us and leave the scene. I know their kind and what they do to prisoners and slaves is a fate I wouldn't wish upon Khan himself.
Unfortunately for their prey, Tarkatans are voracious eaters.
"Sara?" Stryker asks, his voice only slightly hushed. "Sara, what do we do?"
"Stay still," I whisper back. "Don't give them a reason to look this way."
He nods and pulls back an inch, bracing himself against the seat. Sub-Zero and Smoke have frozen as well, holding perfectly still and waiting for the danger to pass. I'm still sitting in the driver's seat, my hands gripping the wheel so tightly my fingers have gone numb. Thankfully, I was foolish enough to leave the windows up today. The car is swelteringly hot, but our scents are trapped in here with us. If any one of us have rolled down a window or opened a door, the Tarkatans would have locked onto one of our bloodmarks and torn the car apart.
I stare into the mirror, watching silently as one Tarkatan warrior sneaks up behind a young woman and slices her stomach open. She falls to the ground next to several other corpses, coughing up blood as her murderer licks bits of her innards from his blade. My stomach turns, the unmistakable sensation of a lost soul roaring through my body. None of these people were meant to die yet, but with each swipe of the Tarkatan's bladed arms, they're sent to their deaths decades before their time.
My iron grip tightens on the steering wheel. With each stolen soul, the balance of the world is shifted a little more off kilter. The Necromancers have strict control of who dies and when, and that control keeps the universe in check. Of course, we always plan for small accidents or lover's quarrels that don't follow our plans. But something like this – the possible massacre of an entire superstore full of people – is enough of a deviation from the main schedule that it could throw the entire delicate balance of life and death into complete chaos. That could wrench that flimsy amount of control from our hands – and if the Necromancers lose control, then every living being is at risk.
"Sara," Stryker whispers, shifting in his seat nervously. "Sara, they're going to kill everyone."
I nod shakily. "I know. But if we make our presence known the damage will be even worse."
Stryker grunts in annoyance. "I'm a police officer! I can't just sit here and watch innocent people die because those monsters are bored!"
I turn my head and glare at him. "And what would you have me do? Jump out of this care and start dancing so they'll chase after us and kill even more people?"
He pulls back a bit, his eyes widening in shock. I match his gaze, my expression hardening and my ever-controlled anger starting to spill out.
"I know these creatures! They're voracious! Even if we manage to distract them, the scent of blood will just draw them back to the murders. If you want to stop them, we'll have to kill them, and there are only four of us. It takes at least three of my kind to take on one of those monstrosities. How much help do you think we could give?"
Stryker stares at me and swallows, his gaze shifting away from mine. A twinge of guilt shoots through me, but I have to suppress it. Stryker is a noble man with his heart in the right place, but he's clueless as to how the darker parts of the world – the parts that I was born into and learned how to control - operate. He's a good man, but a foolish one. Being trained as cop and a Marine, he acts on instinct and quick judgment. Here and now, such actions could get everyone killed.
I take a quick breath. "Stryker, I'm sorry. But if we move, the Tarkatans will just go into a frenzy and kill everything in sight. The only shot would might have against them would be to overpower them by sheer numbers, and with only four of us in this car, we'd-"
I stop, nearly slapping myself across the face. How, in the presence of my watchful gods and these three powerful men, could I have been so stupid? Of course we have the means to overpower those two monsters. Our makeshift army is lying on the ground at their feet.
"Holy fuck, I'm stupid," I whisper.
Sub-Zero turns to face me. "What is it?"
I stare out the back window, silently counting the fallen bodies in the parking lot. "Stryker, how many dead do you count?"
Before Stryker can move, Smoke turns around and follows my gaze out the window and counting to himself. He remains still for a moment, before tuning back to me, his dark eyes fixed on mine.
I nod. "Twelve for each."
I spin around and readjust my grip on the steering wheel, taking slow, deep breaths so I can concentrate and center myself. I need to focus for this one. I may be the daughter of a Necromancer lieutenant-general, but I'm still only twenty-two. I'm not that experienced in the art of raising the dead, so resurrecting over twenty people is going to take a lot of effort on my part. Still, it's our only shot.
Stryker stares at me through the mirror, his eyes both worried and confused. "Sara? What's going on?"
I take another deep breath, feeling my heartbeat slow to an impossible pace and my breathing almost stop completely. Yet, like all Necromancers, I remain completely lucid and focused, able to multitask while I prepare to send out the Calling.
"Don't move." I command them gently, but sternly.
The Tarkatans only. Leave the humans alone. Help them if you must, but leave them alone. After this, you may rest again.
With one last breath, I close my eyes and exhale slowly, releasing the bundle of energy that I keep locked up deep inside of me. My car jerks a bit as that energy is pressed outwards, and I open my eyes to watch the aftermath of my decision. I can see my energy moving, rippling over the asphalt in translucent waves of black and grey. The Tarkatans are completely oblivious as they stalk forward towards the store, but I can feel it nearing my targets.
My Calling skims over the ground, heading straight for the mass of bodies that litters the parking lot, seeking out any dead thing it can find. It rolls over the bodies once, then ricochets of a curb and rolls back, covering them a second time...a third...over and over again until it finally stops moving and settles over the crowd of corpses scattered over the ground.
"Sara..." Stryker and the others have turned around, staring out the back window and watching my Calling dissipate into the bodies. "Sara, what did you do?"
I take a sharp breath and relax again the seat, my energy slowly coming back to me as I take a moment to recover from my burst of energy. It wasn't as bad as I was worried it would be, but I'm still drained. "The Calling...just watch."
Sure enough, I see the bare beginnings of my spell through the rearview mirror. Fingers twitch, chests rise and fall, hearts begin to beat again. Closed eyes open to reveal black, soulless pits of hunger and fury. Slowly, with soft moans and sharp grunts, the corpses of the Tarkatan's victims push themselves from the ground and turn to stare blindly at their prey. They sniff hungrily at the air, deranged smiles crossing their faces as they imagine tasting their first living meals.
Smoke and Sub-Zero stare out the windows, their eyes wide with shock. Poor Stryker's jaw has crashed through the floor of my car and his lungs have seized up. I sigh and gently chide myself for subjecting them to this sight. I know the horror of watching the dead come back to life – as a child, it frightened me – but this is our only chance at saving the rest of the crowd and ourselves. They are dead, but they will stand and fight.
"The dead are a lot harder to kill than the living," I try to reassure them. "There's twelve corpses for each Tarkatan. They won't stand a chance."
"And what...what happens to the Tarkatans?" Stryker asks slowly.
I sigh again. "They'll eat them."
"And the people?" Smoke asks, turning his dark eyes to me.
I smile. "I've given them orders to only kill the Tarkatans. Once those monsters are dead, they'll drop and go back to being inanimate. No one else will be harmed or eaten, I promise."
What I say is true. My army of corpses has been ordered to take down the Tarkatans and no one else. They'll ignore anyone that doesn't smell like one of those monsters, and they'll go back to being dead once those creatures of destroyed. No harm, no foul. Just a few scarred minds and some little kids having nightmares.
"Sara..." Stryker trails off, staring out the window at the animated corpses. "What the fuck did you do?"
I take a deep breath and steel myself against my seat. "It's known as the Calling. It's the source of all those stories you hear about my kind raising the dead. Basically, a Necromancer sends out a distress signal made of their own blood energy and reanimates any dead creature around them. It's a powerful trick, our strongest magic, so we save it until there's no other way out." I sigh again and hang my head. "I'm sorry you had to see this."
I watch through the mirror as the mass of corpses begins to hunt for their prey. Naturally, the dead we resurrect are lithe and nimble creatures, a far cry from the lumbering, brainless beasts of the George Romero movies. They're also extremely versatile, able to hunt alone or in packs depending on their environment. But they belong to us, and as such will blindly obey any order a Necromancer gives them. In this situation, the living humans within the store are safe. I have no desire or need to want them harmed. We're a dark people, but never malicious.
Those unfortunate enough to be trapped outside the store go from panicked to terrified at the sight of my zombies. The scream and run for the doors, but those inside the store have witnessed the same horrors and have bolted the doors shut. Those locked out pound on the doors relentlessly, screaming to be let in, but panic and fear have those inside barring the doors shut. Behind them, a number of my zombies are crowded around the panicked mass of humans, acting as a barrier in case either of the Tarkatans manages to escape the others.
One of the people locked outside turns around and notices my dead army has followed my orders perfectly. The dead stare at the humans blankly, but do nothing to harm them. A few yards back, the rest of my soldiers have managed to drag both Tarkatans to the ground and begin to consume them, throwing bits of entrails and flesh onto the asphalt. Satisfied that the real monsters are dead, the barriers of corpses pulls away from the trembling crowd and heads back towards the feast.
I close my eyes and exhale, relieved. Those two monsters are dead and the humans are still safe. My plan worked perfectly, if a little messily. But it's better than having the entire store filled with bodies. It was a huge risk, one that could earn me horrified looks for the rest of my life, but one that I had to take.
Stryker sighs and slumps into he seat, staring at the floor. "I never want to see that again."
Sub-Zero also retakes his seat, staring out the windshield with unfocused eyes. "Nor do I."
Smoke also takes his seat, his dark eyes meeting mine in the mirror before he closes them and leans his head back. I grimace and feel guilt overwhelm me for a moment. I never wanted them to see this, but it's the only choice I had. Still, I know it must be a horrifying experience for all of them. If I could erase their minds of this, I would.
"I'm sorry," I whisper. "It's all I could think of."
Sub-Zero turns his gaze to me, his eyes strangely soft. "You did what you knew could stop them. You saved hundreds of lives and stopped the Tarkatans from exposing us. There is no apology necessary here."
I turn and smile at him, grateful that someone is acting a little compassionate here, even if it's a Cryomancer. I open my mouth to respond to him, then freeze. Out of the corner of my eye I watch as Scorpion, the traitorous little shit who most likely ratted us out to the Tarkatns, quietly slips out on of the small fire doors on the side on the store. He watches the dead feasting on his fellow hunters for a moment before taking off along the side of the store, heading for the mass of shadows and alleys behind the building.
My lip trembles as I watch him run. "No..."
Moving without thinking, I spin around and grab the door handle, flinging the door wide open and scrambling out of the car. I stand up straight, turning to my ever-faithful hoard of corpses, my eyes narrowing in determination.
"Walkers!" I cry out at them, my rage roaring to the surface.
The zombies freeze and turn their head to look at me, two dozen pairs of black, soulless eyes staring at me patiently. Blood drips from a few mouths, some have chunks of flesh hanging from their teeth, yet they sit silently, awaiting orders they cannot disobey.
I fling my arm out, pointing at the still-fleeing Scorpion. "Scorpion! Catch him! Hunt him to the ends of the earth, but do not let him escape! Silence him and tear him apart!"
Leave all other creatures out of this. They have no issue with us. That one will have us killed if given the chance. Hunt. Him. Down.
Without hesitation, the hoard of animated corpses bolts from the two monstrous carcasses and gives chase, tearing after Scorpion with supernatural speed. I watch them carefully, making sure they know where they're going. They may outnumber Scorpion twenty-four to one, but the Shirai general is as cunning as he is strong. He'll probably manage to kill them all somehow, but they'll at least slow him down a bit.
I watch my army chase after him and disappear into the shadows behind the store, shaking with rage and worry. Damn that two-faced general! As a Necromancer, I can understand his desire for revenge for the deaths of his family. But how dare place dozens of innocent people in danger just because he's upset with Sub-Zero! He could have destroyed every ounce of control we have over the life cycle, and all to watch an innocent man be torn to pieces.
I am going to kill that man with my own hands. Damn it!
I slide back into the car and slam the door, gripping the steering wheel and glaring out the window. I know we have to warn Raiden as soon as we can – those zombies won't hold Scorpion back for long – but I'm too blinded with rage to turn the key.
"Sara?" Sub-Zero turns to face me, his eyes shadowed but concerned.
"He risked the lives of everyone in that store because of you," I whisper, my voice shaking. "He's willing to let hundreds die because he thinks you harmed his family. He's willing to kill over a lie. Motherfucker."
Sub-Zero sighs and looks away, avoiding my anger. Another wave of guilt washes over me, drowning out the anger. What happened here isn't his fault in the least, but he's doing what we all do when we hear people were hurt over something we may have done – he's mentally putting all the blame on himself, taking responsibility for actions that aren't his. Staring at him from the corner of my eye, I smile a little. That guilt and humility is comforting in a time like this. It proves he's got a soul somewhere.
On a whim, I look into the rearview mirror and stare into the back seat. Stryker has attempted to curl up into a ball and is staring blankly out the back window, his mind and his heart severely shaken from watching me reanimate a bunch of dead bodies. Smoke is the exact opposite, sitting up straight and staring back into the mirror, meeting my emotionless stare with one of his own.
Something in my gut twitches, letting me know that most of his calculated coldness may not be totally his fault. That enenra within him is made of his own anger, pain and fury, although he may not recognize it or even understand it. The two of them seem extremely close, able to share thoughts and feelings without any issues, despite that fact that they're nothing more than a man with a mist demon latching onto his soul. But, despite being a part of his very essence, the enenra needs Smoke to stay sane and healthy if it wants to survive. It's possible that the enenra may be blocking out the worst of the images from Smoke's mind, keeping him mentally sound and emotionally durable.
Shaking my head to clear it, I turn the key in the ignition and start the car. I start to pull out of the parking lot, intent on getting out of here as soon as possible. We need to get to Raiden and the rest of their group as soon as possible and fill them in on Scorpion's involvement with Khan's plan. That, and at least forty people just happened to watch two Tarkatan warriors slaughter a bunch of people, then saw me resurrect those dead people and have them chase down a masked ninja. I don't want to be around when the police show up for this one; that's going to be one hell of a report to file.
As I'm pulling out, I happen to glace toward the main doors of the store. I catch a glimpse of Emma staring through the glass, her eyes wide with concern as she tentatively gives me a thumbs-up. I smile and nod, watching relief wash over he face. Silently, I count my blessings that Emma's seen my Necromancy in action before and isn't a freaked-out mess like the rest of the store; she knows exactly how to handle this. I watch as she turns and starts to usher the panicked crowd away from the doors, trying to distract them from me as I leave the parking lot. I give her one last smile as I turn onto the main road and start heading for the airport.
"So...New York, right?" I ask tentatively.
Stryker nods quickly. "Yeah, Raiden and the others are based there for now. It's the safest place we could find to regroup and figure out a plan."
I nod silently, unsure if any of them really want to talk. I maneuver my car through traffic and merge onto the main interstate, hoping to make it to the airport as fast as possible. I look back through the mirror to see Smoke and Stryker staring out the windows, disengaging from the world. Without having to look, I know Sub-Zero has done the same. I watch through the mirror as Stryker hesitates, then lifts his head to make eye contact with me.
"Hey, Sara?" He asks, his voice soft.
"Yeah?" I reply, my voice just as quiet.
His mouth twitches. "Never do that again. Please?"
I sigh and break eye contact, staring out the windshield. "I can't make any promises on the Stryker. And consider yourself lucky that's all you saw. There are far worse things I could have done at the moment than raise the dead."
His head snaps up, his eyes wide with horror and uncertainty. I nearly smack my head against the steering wheel for opening my mouth. Despite his obvious shock, he remains quiet; the thought of something worse than resurrecting dead people has freaked him out so much it's silenced him.