Year of the Spectre - Episode III:
"Harvest Dusk"
Page 2

"INTO THE LABYRINTH"

II.  "Sticky Stealth"

       The dark fiend-made caverns of the sewer sat in abject silence.  A sultry haze lingered over the stagnant waters of those Irvine sanitation catacombs.  The only sound was that of the occasional drip, drip, dripping when condensation lent a pure drop of water to the polluted bog, consuming as it did a steady eight inches on the floor of the passageways and feeding the breeding of mosquitoes in the summer heat.

     A small mouse scurried away as his larger cousin, the rat, bullied her away to claim a pear-core as his evening meal.  Just as he settled in to a mouthful of the rotten fruit an army surplus jungle boot landed gently behind the vermin.  First the toe settled, then it slowly rolled to the heel.  The small, greasy mammal didn’t even flinch, unaware of its imminent interruption.

     Slayer stealth was among the best stealth there was.  The boot toe brushed the rat into the bog with a slight splash and continued onward. Its squeak of surprise echoed through the stone passageways, the loudest sound heard for over an hour.  As dozens of other boots and tennis shoes padded by the rotten pear a strip of duct tape floated by in the barely detectable current of the sewer flow.  They were close now.

     “Don’ touch de walls,” ordered the leader with an almost undetectable hiss.  He was wearing a tight black short sleeved v-necked shirt with a bandoleer over it covered in various shiny vials, wide green shotgun shells, and sharp objects, blunt on the opposite end.  A large gavel was dangling at his side next to a Victorionox Eddie Bower edition Swiss Army knife.  In his hand he tightened his grip on a sawed off double barrel shotgun with crack-motion reloading.  The safety was off.  A drop of water found agonising release from the brim of his brown felt fedora hat as he turned around to face the ground of teenagers behind him, all equally coated in sweat mostly due to the 100+ degree temperatures of the sewers.  Amongst them, though, were also the signs of anticipation of what was about to happen.

     Garland, the most curious of the bunch, instantly inspected the walls to see what it was that had their leader concerned.  The stone walls that had kept them company on the first leg of their journey were now gone.  Duct tape, sticky and dull in impossibly tangled patterns, now covered the surface of the walls.  The Slayer-Baker pursed his lips.  He couldn’t believe they were on a real raid.  A silver-coated shovel’s wooden handle pushed him from behind as Jude, wearing little more than shorts and boots under a cadre of weapons, motioned with his head for the skinny Slayer to continue moving.  Garland nodded and continued silently onward.

     Soon they were deep into the lair of the Duct Tape Horde.  GAVAL at the point stopped very suddenly and looked down at his boots.  The group almost ground into him like cars in a train, each looking around the person in front of them to see what the hold up was.

     “Go slick,” ordered the Cajun as he reached into the left cargo pocket of his pants.  He produced a small plastic bottle of dish-washing liquid and some ice grips for boots; the kind made of coiled wire and bungee that quickly attach and detach to footwear for extra grip on slippery surfaces.

     It was impossible to continue onward stealthily with sticky floors unless adhesion could be avoided.  The dish-washing detergent had proved very useful for these purposes, and it had a lemony-fresh scent 9 out of 10 Slayers approved of while citing sparked memories of their favourite meringue pie when washing dirty Halloween Feast dishes.  The ice grips prevented them from loosing their footing, as they had waxed their boots with lubricant that dissolved adhesion of all types on contact.

     “Forward,” demanded Lothos when he was satisfied that all of them were able to move with sufficient quiet.  Their movement was a bit slower as even metal ice grips would slip from time to time and as adhesion was hard to avoid completely.  The occasional ripping sound of a piece of duct tape could be heard as a portion of some Slayer’s boot stuck to the floor.  They would all immediately halt when it happen and wait for GAVAL to assess whether or not the sound was loud enough to have blown their cover, or if they should continue on.  He insisted they push forward each time.

     The Cajun’s confidence in their surprise element grew as they neared what seemed to be the inner-workings of Phasmus’ catacombs.  It was like a scene out of the movie Aliens as they gazed up at the archways and passages to see them coated in thick, grey duct tape.  It was over every surface.  One couldn’t tell where the stone architecture ended and the adhesive evil began.  The original architecture had been modified; altered to provide a more regenerative and welcoming environment to all who opposed Phasmus and were subsequently liquidated into his army of undead plumbing products.  However, it was not the increased amount of duct tape that bolstered GAVAL’s faith that their presence hadn’t been given off.  The moments of silence the group of Hunter-Slayers would employ every few seconds were producing increased evidence of activity in the catacombs ahead of them.  Sounds of tape sticking on tape, tape being ripped, tape being unrolled, and the occasional moan could be heard.  They had arrived.

     Walking with seemingly no reason back and forth across the passageway was a Tapefiend.  A mummy wrapped in Duct Tape.  A Liquifee.  It gave off no pinpoints of light from its empty, dull eye sockets like Phasmus did.  Occasionally it would moan, probably humming a tune to help it remember its orders.  Freeing it from its torment was paramount to the Slayers, as they knew how pathetic the existence of anyone liquidated by Phasmus could be.  This thing was patrolling the only way deeper into the catacombs.  GAVAL was too impatient to find a way around it.  It would have to be slain.

     GAVAL didn’t waste any time.  He wanted to make evil dead.  Further still, he wanted to see that his weeks and weeks of patience in training these kids with Lothos in alternate ways to slay evil outside the orthodox ASG-sanctioned methods had worked.  GAVAL waited for the teens to finish manifesting their Rush.  The presence of undead had empowered them with strength and speed far more than normal men could exhibit.  Their pupils dimly glowing with various shades of light, they were an awesome sight.  He motioned to them that the attack was about to begin, showing which attack groups would go where when the chaos ensued; showing who would provide ranged attack before a close-quarters melee’ could occur.

     Reaching into his bandoleer he produced a soft, squishy water balloon filled with very flammable anti-cohesive solvent.  His arm went back as if to throw the balloon.  The Slayers tensed as they knew the point of no return was about to arrive.  GAVAL hesitated for a moment then handed the balloon to Kysha, one of the few Slayers-Cajun in the group.  In his other hand had been a small firecracker, which he would light and throw into the tape fiend he was attacking.  He handed that one to Clint, the nearest Slayer to Kysha.  “First kill goes to you two.  Sound the attack,” he whispered, and stood behind them.

     Kysha instinctively took the lead and glanced over at the Redneck who would complete the attack.  As taught by Lothos she blinked three times to tell Clint she was about to count.  Then she nodded her head rhythmically once, twice, then a third time.  Kysha hurled her aesthetically unimpressive balloon at the fiend, striking it dead-center in the torso.  It stopped its pacing in the last moment it was granted to think and uttered an unintelligible “unngh” as Clint’s lit firecracker, weighted with a pebble to give it better range, struck the mummy in the shoulder and stuck fast.  One second after that the balloon splashed solvent all over the minion of Phasmus.  The timing was flawless.  Clint knew to throw his projectile one count after Kysha threw hers to insure the fuel of his attack would be ready when the firecracker arrived.



"RETREAT"

    BANG!

     The small explosive went off sending sparks every direction around the fiend and instantly catching the creature ablaze.  What wasn’t burning was disintegrating as fiery wraps of duct tape fell to the ground around the creature in seconds.  Faster than one could say “Cherry Glazed Strudle Pastry” the room was silent, save for a slight hissing coming from the four appendages laying still in the inches of water that slowly flowed downstream in the sewer.  Lothos, Jude, and Marco approached the corpse to finish it off, but there was nothing left to finish.  Jude smirked at the remains of the Tapefiend.  The remaining limbs, burnt on end, reminded him of pictures he had seen in ASG Training of vampires who had spontaneously combusted in the sunlight or after being force-fed holy water.

     “We ought to be up to our doodads in Tape Fiends by now,” noted Lothos.  “Either Phasmus has one of his traps set fore us or he’s too low on resources to come out here like a man…or whatever he is in a...masculine and bold mannah…”

     Lothos suddenly crouched to pounce as a moan came from down the corridor in the direction the Slayers were headed.  Jude and Marco poised themselves to attack with a couple of bottles with rags hanging out of them.  Once again their eyes lit up with the power of the Rush.  They didn’t even wince in pain - managing the Rush was becoming second nature to them thanks to GAVAL’s Rush Management training using a live Vampire.  “Wait, hold your fire.”  Jude and Marco looked at one another and frowned.

     Cory, a Slayer Redneck grinned at Sasha who was peering over one of Lothos’ Spam Warriors’ shoulder.  “Heheh...get it?  `Hold your fire?’”  Sasha wasn’t amused and smacked Cory atop his Astros baseball cap as the rest of the young Slayers shushed them both.

     “Oi, it isn’t coming for us,” Lothos observed, almost disappointed.  Indeed the Tapefiend Warrior simply walked past the three of them and began pacing back and forth in the corridor where his associate was patrolling just moments ago.  Marco and Jude watched the mummy pace across the corridor, step over it’s compatriot’s scorched and smoking body parts, then continue onward, turning around and repeating the process endlessly.

     “Ah’ve never seen Tapefiends act like dis before,” frowned GAVAL.

     Garland wiped droplets of steam and sweat from his glasses and whispered to the Cajun,  “They’re like those Borg drones on Star Trek.  Don’t seem to care much about what we do as long as we don’t rock their boat.”

     “Do you think Phas can see us through it?  Knows we’re here?”  asked Kysha.

     GAVAL waved Lothos and the rest of the group to continue forward then glanced at her way.  For some reason his look gave Kysha an uneasy feeling.  “No way to tell.  Best we lay low `til we know one way or de other.”

     The group continued forward, occasionally passing Tapefiends who seemed to care little about their presence.  They’d occasionally moan back and forth amongst themselves and go about their duties as sentries, maintenance workers, or message/stock trade carriers.

     “I think that last Tapefiend was mah fifth grade spellin’ teacher,” remarked Cory.  The level of caution the Slayers were using had dramatically declined when they knew they wouldn’t come under attack.

     Sasha cocked her head sideways and squinted her eyes.  “How can you tell?  They all look the same to me.”

     “Because few people on this continent have an ass that wide.  Man, they must have used a whole role of tape on each cheek!”  The teenagers and Lothos laughed and even Moe and Curly, the Spam Warriors Lothos brought along, gave a meaty chuckle.  GAVAL glared at the teens and they all instantly stopped laughing.  He just didn’t seem to have the sense of humour they all appreciated towards the beginning of their vigilante lessons.  There was more at stake for him in leading a group of young Slayers into danger.

     “That way,” ordered GAVAL as he nodded to a particularly large door that seemed to have more Tapefiends lurching around it than the others.  The door had the most intricate patterns of duct tape they had seen anywhere in the catacombs.  On it were shapes of dollar signs, bulls, bears, and strange alien symbols dripping with resin.  Sitting next to it were two fiends sharing a large salad bowl filled with Resin Bran.

     The group approached the door, carefully eyeing the mummies and stepping between them.  Suddenly and without warning Tapefiends dropped out of the ceiling, sprung form the floor and, stepped up from around them to block their way to the large doors.  Tape tendrils flailed about wildly as they all moaned in unison a Tapefiend battle cry that no human could translate.

    “Looks like we found da `on’ button,” grinned GAVAL as his fellow Slayers’ eyes glowed brighter and fiercer than they had all evening.   “Too close for ranged attack.  I want what’s inside that door.  Go melee and attack.”  Without waiting for the rest of them to join in GAVAL produced a vibro-steel stake and an electric hand-stunner.   The cry of “EVAAHHL!” and the “SPLURCH!” of a duct tape mummy’s head being punctured and ripped off was enough to get the rest of them moving.

     Lothos, stuck behind two of the youngest Slayers, wanted action and he wanted it now.  Figuring the easiest way to get satisfaction was to coax the kids into the fight he shoved the two of them right into a group of five charging tapefiends.  “Definitely out of their passive mode,” he observed as the two young Slayers arms flailed about in a blur sending tape in every direction.  “BOOOGA!” he cried, brandishing an old fishing net tied up with Garlic and electric wire.  The net covered two more oncoming mummies but didn’t slow them until the Kiwi activated a crude switch on his belt that was attached to a power cell ‘borrowed’ from Fjorxc’s Orca.  The bodies of the mummies writhed and lurched as they fell to the ground unable to move.  Lothos struck a match against his chin while taking the opportunity to pour lighter fluid on them, then spit out the match while using both hands to finish squeezing off the last drops of flammable liquid.

     “Behind you!” cried Marco as Jude was nearly beheaded by a swinging mummy arm as thick as an oak limb.  Jude turned around and brought his hand up, gripping the Tapefiend’s forearm and stopping it dead in its tracks with brute strength.  He then began squeezing, bearing his teeth as resin poured out of the mummy’s arm.  The creature moaned a pitiful moan but Jude kept on squeezing, seeming to delight as much in the abomination’s torture as in the challenge.  Suddenly it’s head burst into flames as Marco sprayed anti-adhesive solvent at the Tapefiend through a lit Zippo.  It would suffer no more.  Jude looked on the once-again-dead mummy with a measure of satisfaction, but Marco just stared at the ruthless Slayer-Cajun and narrowed his eyes.

     “We’re not here for personal jollies, Jude.  Slay and move on.”

     “You can’t be serious!” taunted Jude.  “There’s no challenge here!  I’ll worry when we find that Spectre.  In the meantime save your advice for the little ones.”  Jude gestured towards Garland and Kin, a very young asian Slayer who were slowly being wrapped up in duct tape.  They were being liquidated to serve the Horde.  Marco dove into the group of assailants with a silver-coated hand axe and a high-voltage cattle prod.

     Before Curly, Moe, and Lothos could get to the ornate door to force it open, the remaining dozen or so Tapefiends lurched into the door itself and threw it open, running deeper into the catacomb labyrinth behind the door.

     GAVAL and the young Slayers paused behind Lothos and the Spam Warriors for a moment to take in the darkness and steamy atmosphere beyond the Horde Gate.

     “Phasmus is in dere somewhere,” said GAVAL.  “Dis is our chance to do what the ASG failed to do last month.  No deals.  No quarter.  No more weak alliances. No more liquidations.  Phasmus goes down today, and with him goes Irvine’s corrupt government.”  The Cajun felt his anger struggle to take over, but he couldn’t let the Hunter-Slayers see his Tainted Rush.  Not when things were going so well.  Besides, it would inspire them to see him fight so well without the Rush they thought he had lost forever.

     Before GAVAL could finish speaking, Moe lurched off after a duct tape mummy only half his height.

     “Oh, that’s real brave!  Pick on the pygmy fiends!  What are you trying to prove, Moe!?” cried Lothos, but the Spam Warrior just disappeared into the steamy tunnels after the moaning cries of Horde Retreat.

     Moe plowed through the fleeing horde of TapeFiends, leaving a trail of crushed, writhing minions in his wake.  Silently but mightily the canned meat stomped, mangled, unwrapped, and pork-shouldered his way into the very core of the catacombs.   Finally he made his way around the corner, just beyond Lothos’ cries for the Spam Warrior to return where dozens of mummies were waiting to make their last stand.  Moe only paused for a moment, but the look on the fiends’ grey faces seemed different.  Perhaps it was that the undead creature of Spam was without his enlightened allies, but he no longer seemed as intimidating to the Horde.  The TapeFiends seemed far less reluctant to defend themselves against his onslaught than the destructive efforts of the Slayers. Moe was swarmed by lurching adhesive horrors... as many as he swatted away, two came to take their place. His pink, lumpy “flesh” was gradually coated with the gray sticky ooze deposited by hundreds of flailing adhesive tendrils.

     Tendrils flailed and moans climaxed.  Lothos and the Slayers came running down the last corridor to the heart of the Horde to see the shadow of a huge lump of Moe go falling down while the shadows of duct tape tendrils came from every direction ripping the undead Spam to it’s base parts in silhouette.  GAVAL flinched when a piece of spam flew down the sticky corridor and smacked him in the forehead.

     “Meaty,” he whispered, but continued on.

     Before they could get around the corner a moan so low in tone it shook the contents of their stomachs echoed in the dank caverns.

     “God,” gasped Sasha as she covered her ears.  “Is it Phasmus?  Did we finally find him?”

     “Stay on top of it, Slayers.  Ah don’t know what that is, but it can’t be good.  Little down here is,” warned GAVAL.

     The sound of a flat surface the size of a piano being stuck to duct tape and then released echoed in the shadows before them.  The silhouettes of the many tape fiends around the corner seemed to merge into one, or become covered with something, as the green light around the corner disappeared to shadow.

     SLURCH!  SLURCH! SLURCH!  The sounds continued, with the occasional snorting of some unseen beast.

     “Whatever it is, ah think it’s gonna charge!” cried Clint over the loud, low noise.  “Sounds like a bull seein’ red!”

     “That’s nonsense!” corrected Garland.  “Bovines cannot see in color!”

     “Well, judging from the color of that thing’s peepers, foureyes, it’s pissed enough to see red,” frowned Jude as he stared into the darkness before them with the enhanced vision of a Slayer on the Rush.

     Two green and menacing eyes at least eight feet high seemed to be growing in size before they realized it was approaching them.  Behind it grey Tapefiends lurched forward, angry to put an end to the trespassers.  Behind them, the green light reappeared as if taunting the Slayers for having come so close only to fail.

     “Lesson 426, comrades,” preached Lothos as he stepped before the group.  “Allies corrupted by evil on the field of battle are best eliminated with extreme prejudice, lest they exploit your weaknesses.”  With that he stabbed a bowie knife into a plastic container of lighter fluid and tossed it at the huge liquidated Spam Warrior.  A shower of liquid fell over the creature and eventually landed in the sludge behind him, a nasty concoction of sewer water, tape resin, and lighter fluid.  “Smoke filters folks!” cried Lothos as he struck a flare across the zipper of his trousers and flew it into the Moefiend.

     The corridor was lit up brighter at that moment than perhaps it ever had or would be.  The stench of burnt tape resin and charred Spam filled the room.  Slayer and fiend alike cringed at the brightness of it, the living scurrying to cover their eyes and mouths with filters for smoke and resin fumes.

     “I was gonna take care of that!” scolded Jude as he pumped a shotgun full of rosary bead shells.

     “Rule 427,” dictated GAVAL.  “It’s okay to inconvenience your unit if you manage to do away with the eight foot menace dat was threatening dere lives without killing dem too!

     “I hope he doesn’t expect us to take notes down here,” frowned Kysha as she adjusted a bra strap with vials of Holy Water tucked in.

     “I think he’s making it up as he goes along…” muttered Sasha.

     Lothos walked out of the glaring flames snacking on a piece of Moe.  “Never liked Spam as a kid. I think I like it less now.”  He spat out the half-chewed piece of meat product.  “Even worse with duct tape on it.  Shall we kill stuff?” he asked as he brandished his infamous Death-Knight Staff.

     “You could have gotten us killed!” cried Jude from behind a clear plastic hood with a breathing canister attached to it.  They had all been issued the cheap $15 variety of smoke hoods when “fire” had been mentioned as a useful way to stop tape fiends.  “I’m starting to think you don’t give a damn about if we get killed down here or not as long as you get your violence jollies satisfied, you Kiwi hick!”

     Lothos grinned and shrugged, neither acknowledging the angry young slayer nor denying his suggestion.

     GAVAL scowled and smacked on his gum; it tasted like resin and canned meat.  “Shut up, Jude.  Right now we haveta get aroundat fire and finish what we started.  Ah’m thinkin’ dere’s about another dozen or so mummies on the other side o’ dat dead Spam.”
 


Year of the Spectre Episode 3 - Page 3