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 Walking on a Crust Over Hell: (TimeSaga 8 - All Five)

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PostSubject: Walking on a Crust Over Hell: (TimeSaga 8 - All Five)   September 30th 2014, 11:27 am

Walking on a Crust over Hell
TimeSaga Story Eight

Chapter One

I should be an elephant.  Most of my body was composed of machinery.  Wooden floors creak when I would walk across them.  In my training they sent our group into a marsh to supposedly rescue a hostage in a shed.  Those that sunk into the soft, wet ground were not pulled out in time.  There were thus no longer ten of us.  I learned to watch where I put my feet, then not to walk into a shed.  I complained about my paint gun not penetrating the wall of the shed when an actual bullet would, and was given credit for making the rescue.  I now have to move silently, which was a task about as easy as an elephant tip-toeing.

Every time I heard a voice in my ear I wondered how much of my head was really my own.  “Eight, you should have taken that man out.”

“This mission is about stealth,” I whispered wondering how those monitoring my actions could hear me.  “You should already know that I could have taken him out.”

Another voice came into my ear, “This is not a simulation, Eight.  You need to take that man out.”

Now they tell me.  I kept myself from just starting to shoot my way to the objective.  My CO stressed the need for stealth, so I continued to have my mechanical body take slow, careful steps.  I felt that I probably could simply go through wiping out the hired guns, but accepted that I would be yelled at later for not obeying orders.  I thus earned my points by actually taking the man by surprise and breaking his neck.

I was now a murderer.  Even though on a concrete slab covered by slate tiles, I felt as if the ground under my feet shifted.  There was no hope for me.  I condemned myself to Hell by taking my own life.  My soul was spared an eternity of torture by being revived due to science.  I had agreed to donate my body to medical purposes, and my having committed suicide caused the native government to consider me as having no worth.  I came conscious to find my mind alive in a body mostly composed of machinery.  I was told that many did not stay sane upon finding themselves in such a state.  I however simply recognized that an eternity of being tortured laid before me with my present unlife simply a reprieve from the classic horrors of damnation.  Being a murderer I felt was less of a sin than suicide, although with the death I felt the crust separating me from the true flames of the abyss become less secure.

The floor in this room was carpeted.  I still managed my steps carefully, as my heavy body could not be assumed to ever be truly quiet.  A sniper had killed the guards as I moved toward this building, although at the time I considered the deaths only acting.  I had now used knives and my powerful hands to actually kill those on duty in the building.  I moved over the carpet to a metal door glad that there was not anyone around me needing to be killed, although knowing that my fate really could not get any worse.

“It’s locked,” I whispered, because the door was.

“We have been monitoring their communications, Eight, and the memo said that the key for today is seven, nine, nine, two.”

Sure enough, the numbers worked.  The voice did not tell me what to expect on the other side of the door, so I opened it, looked, then stepped through.  I then shut the door.  Wondering if the voice would give me any more useful information, I headed down a metal ramp.

There were guards in the hallway beyond the landing to the stairs.  There was no way I could reasonably assume that the guards did not see me.  They however obviously were meant to just prevent anyone entering through the door.  People passing down the hall, even for someone as obviously out of place as my walking cyborg person, would not be a concern.  I however did not descend further down the stairs, but held my position attempting to figure out what I should do.

The obvious solution would be to attack.  It actually would not matter how I acted, as the result would surely be an alarm.  My concern was completely on achieving my mission, and how much trouble I would cause by actually having to fight my way out.  I looked at my metal body, and decided to test just how capable it would be in keeping me from suffering in Hell.

I walked back up the stairs while taking out my sturdier knife. Using it and my mechanical hands I ripped the aluminum strip from the side of the electronically activated door.    I then put up the knife before twisting the wide strip of aluminum into a long length of metal.  I then bent it over to make it sturdier, and with my mechanical strength I found it becoming something actually usable.  As I was testing the quality of the makeshift weapon, I heard a guard walking up seemingly curious with the sounds I had made.

The guard should have realized that I had already given up on any idea of being stealthy.  Yes, I had managed to move to this point undetected, but I felt attempting to tip-toe past him and his companion without being recognized would not be a wise option.  The only thing I was hoping to prevent was the alarm being triggered, and I knew enough about the perseverance of the human body not to trust a simple attack to make a quick kill.  What the guard learned was that in giving up on one tactic I was putting into an action an idea I simply wondered if it would work at all.

Seeing one guard quickly back away from the stairs in a floating type of manner momentarily stunned the second guard.  Finding the twisted shaft of aluminum spearing into his body had him croak out a sound, but not activate any alarm.  Both were dead, so I cut throats feeling that my eternity in Hell had already been made worse.  Blood on the carpet would surely be noticed, but I quickly decided on my next actions hoping to already be moving out when everyone else would be warned of my presence.

There was no way for me to know what was behind the door the guards had been guarding.  I really suspected it was just some clerk doing payroll or a cabinet holding drugs.  The odds of it being the person I had been sent to extract I felt were low, but after killing the guards I felt that I might as well check.

I was prepared to kill.  The line had been crossed, and my eternity of suffering in a lake of fire had already been determined.  Whether I would be floating on the surface or somehow breathing at the bottom of the seething liquid mattered little to me.  Yes, it did surprise me to see my objective in a chair.  The fact that I had to kill others before being able to safely gain the person however was a duty I performed before being shocked by my luck.

The knife had blood on it, but it still worked to cut plastic wraps as I said, “We need to move quickly.”

The man I freed promised, “I did not tell them anything.”

“I was not sent to concern myself with your situation, but only to bring you out alive.  The fact that you are in good health should be counted in my favor.”

He looked at me.  As in my decision to kill the guards, I accepted that there was no way to hide what I was.  The man however said nothing about what he saw, but looked to the door as he spoke an agreement.

“Yes, get me out of here.”

While I had removed part of the door frame, the door still worked.  Whatever electronics controlled the portal also continued to operate.  The electronics must have interfered with radio transmissions, as in coming through the door I heard a frantic voice in my head.

“Eight, where were you?”

“I have the objective,” I replied.  “Coming out.”

“We’re moving, no need to be stealthy.”

My feet sounded like washing machines shaking from an uneven load as they hit the ground.  Others heard, and came to check on the sound.  The pops of bullets being fired joined the noise of my movement.  The man found himself able to keep his feet moving beside me as we moved out of the building.

“How did I rate someone like you?”

As I paused to take out some guards, I answered, “I believe that they simply wanted to put me through some actual experience.  You were just lucky to have been caught at the right time and place.”

“I heard about you.  You are a pyramid, right?”

“Eight,” I only said in reply.

“How many others are with you?”

“None that I know.  Only seven of us still exist.”

“You mean seven others?”

I felt it was a valid assumption, so when I had a moment I gave a full answer.  “No.  Our numbers don’t change just because a lower number dies.  I am Eight, Pyramid Eight.”

“Well, it’s good to meet you.”

“Stay alive so I can hear you say that in better surroundings.”

“You keep me alive, and I promise you time in much better surroundings.”

It sounded like the man was willing to reward me.  I knew nothing about him, except being told his name and shown a picture of him.  My CO said that I needed to know nothing more, and feeling the extraction was just another exercise I felt extra fake information to not help me at all.  I suspected that the man would be charged for my services, although I would only continue to be fed and my body kept in good condition.  I doubted that I would actually be allowed to gain any reward for my actions.

The man had been brought to an abandoned building near the middle of a city.  Could not really tell what it had originally been built for, as it had a multitude of different features as if put to many uses over time.  I used furniture, some pieces built into the structure and others simply brought in, to keep me and my objective safe.  The hired help had been alerted, but we were already near the door.  I thus felt getting him outside into the city to be only a matter of time.

It would not have made me happy if the destruction of the door had harmed my objective.  Someone had been present when I was dropped off to unlock the front of the building for me.  He had only cracked the door open, then reminded me that I was supposed to use stealth, which only supported my belief that this was simply a test.  Realizing that this was an actual mission, seeing the front portal explode open had me wonder about the true worth of my objective.

The men that came in assured the safety of me and my objective.  I heard some good words about my performance as I was returned to a special seat in a van.  As I settled, I saw a man move to sit beside me that I suspected would render me unconscious.

Instead, he asked, “Well, big guy, do you now feel like living.”

“No,” I replied, “but it is better than being in Hell.”

“I guess that I can take that positively.  Do you want me to turn you off?”

Those words took me by surprise with me only able to ask, “Do I have a choice?”

“Yes, Eight, I am giving you the choice.”

“I don’t have good dreams.”

“No, I reckon you don’t.  Enjoy the ride.”

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.


Last edited by TerishD on October 20th 2014, 11:46 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Chapter Two   October 5th 2014, 2:18 pm

Walking on a Crust over Hell
TimeSaga Story Eight

Chapter Two

I found the debriefing enjoyable, as I heard a lot of positive words about my performance. The fact that I could move my mechanical body in a stealthy manner actually seemed to surprise those that worked with me. I got the impression that at least a couple other pyramids were sent on similar missions, and neither managed to move without being spotted. I learned nothing of the other missions, so could not say that they had a situation like mine. I felt the building worked to support my actions at stealth, so the other cyborgs might have simply lacked options. I however enjoyed hearing the praise for what I managed to do, and accepted the words as payment enough.

It surprised me to see a nice room of sturdy furniture, and the man who opened the door, a bio-electrical engineer named Dr. Uzuki, explained what I saw. “Your body seems to be healed and operating smoothly. Thus, no more hospital bed for you. The gym is right outside, so you can work out if you desire. There is a TV, cable with some nudie channels if you want. Of course, you had that in your hospital room, but you usually desired music.”

I moved to open a drawer in a metal table next to my bed, then turned to let the man know what I hoped to see. “A Bible?”

“Don’t want to go to Hell?”

My situation had not been just hospital treatments to get my cyborg body working. Besides physical therapy, there were numerous psychological sessions. A number of facts of my mentality had been revealed, so it did not surprise me that the man made the association. Feeling that it would not do me any good to lie, I answered the question.

“I am a suicide, and now I am a murderer. I am thus wondering just how deep Hell is.”

“You did not murder, Eight, you killed. Also, you’re not dead, so cannot be said to truly have committed suicide. I would say that you are thus not totally hopeless.” I really did not know how to respond to that, so was actually glad that Dr. Uzuki kept talking. “Don’t you worry, Eight, as I will get you a Bible. You will not be the first mercenary who prays for his immortal soul. Hope that you find some answers, as I can believe that you need some.”

“There are no answers for me, but it might be good if I can find hope.”

“Listen, Eight, really, your body is adapting to the mechanical parts of you. You performed well. I cannot see why you cannot find hope. If the Bible does not help you, I can get you a Koran, Gita, or even Sigmund Freud.”

“Thanks.”

He moved to the door, then said, “Oh, and I guess that you can go back to being Barney.”

“No. I prefer being Eight. I feel like an Eight.”

“Barney did not die. He was not a successful suicide. You did not commit murder, but just acted as a multitude of other men who were ordered on missions where the other people would have killed them if they did not kill first. You are not hopeless.”

Not really believing him, I tried to let him know that I was not going to attempt suicide again. “When is my next mission?”

“Cannot say. We are facing some problems, one of which is simply how much to charge for your services. One thing to learn about being a merc, is that there is a lot of down time. When you go into action however, your life is on the line. Hell of a life, but not without its benefits. If we don’t see you out there exercising, we will get rough with you, but otherwise your time is your own. Oh, at the moment, no going outside. Not your problem, our problem, but you have to deal with it.”

“I’m fine. Just get me the Bible.”

He left and I checked the room. In a closet I found clothes. They all had the same black and dark green colors with patches making me feel that they were uniforms. I could not put on regular clothes, even uniforms, as my metal parts did not do the best job of simulating the human body. What I had in the closet were sets of fabric to be shaped around my body and held by clasps. A strong metal bed had wires coming it from I felt certain connected sensors checking on my body to computers. No bathroom, although a sink was present above which was a mirror. Accepting the room as my home, I wondered about how I was going to live.

My head was mostly still mine. Brown hair and eyes. Nothing really special about me. I had just been an honest working man with a wife and child – and a dog. I saw the joy in my son’s eyes when I gave him the animal, and felt that my life was complete. I was a good father, husband, and working man. Strangely, losing all that did not make me mad at God, but I accepted that I would not spend eternity in His presence. If He did not want me to have the simple pleasures of life, I considered it my fate to go into eternity suffering. While my life presently was not Hell, I still considered it the future God had chosen for me.

I turned on the TV basically just to see how well it worked. It surprised me to see that they would allow me to watch the news channels. I did nothing more than just verify that my selection was not being limited, then turned it off. The radio was on the station playing easy-listening music, so not needing to turn the dial I turned it off. Wondering about how much my life would now be controlled, I opened the door to my room and stepped outside.

I wondered about where I had been assignd as I saw a weapons shop to the right of my door and a sparring area to the left. The size was that of a school basketball arena, but the look was of an old car repair shop. Just as the area before me had been redecorated to fit present needs, I wondered if my room had originally been a janitor’s closet and storage area.

“Hey, cyborg, can you not kill me?”

The man was not big, but the way he was punching a bag let me know that he had some strength. I stepped toward him with my mechanical legs sounding like the masses of metal that they were. I looked at the bag, then punched it and spoke seeing it strongly react.

“Let me practice on that. Up to now they have had me work to improve my strength. I however do believe it is time for more control.”

“I’m told that you have managed to make that body move real fine.”

As I looked for another bag I replied, “It takes thought. I am hoping to get more comfortable with this body.”

“That’s a real good attitude. Can you shake?”

He had a hand stick out. I reached out holding my fingers straight. He accepted my actions, and smiled as he merely clasped my hand.

“They call me Chambers, as I tend to keep my weapons loaded and never seem to fire that last bullet until absolutely necessary.”

“I am Eight, Pyramid Eight.”

“Who were you before being turned into a cyborg?”

His body language and tone of voice indicated that he was trying to be nice, so I tried not to put any emotion into my response. “Someone that life stopped treating fairly. That man committed suicide when he felt himself already condemned to Hell.”

“Been there. As a merc, we can have some good paydays. While back on another mission, my wife took my money and got big into drugs. I came back to have to do myself and the local cops a few favors. I’m on the lam right now, although no one is really looking for me. Life is not fair, and sometimes just strange.”

Just to let the man know that I could deal with my past, I told him my story. “Bought my boy a dog. I was happy with my wife, my boy, and a dog. We were in the park with my boy playing ball with some other boys. The ball went out into the street, and my boy raced to get it. Got killed by a car. The dog went out to bark at the man who stepped out with my wife racing out there as well. It seemed that the man was a bank robber fleeing a heist, and he did not have time for dealing with his accident. While he had not killed anyone in the bank robbery, he shot the dog and my wife before speeding off. When the cops were unable to capture him, I felt that I had lost it all without any hope. I thus committed suicide.”

“Botched it?”

“No. I am told that I actually died, as they could not have claimed my body for science otherwise. Others have said differently however, so I assume the actual definition of death was stretched in my case.” I looked down at my mechanical form as I added, “But the science of those that claimed my body seems to be rather good.”

“Yes, well, I have met a few other Pyramids, and they are not even close to being as calm as you. That is part of the Solomon Foundation’s present problems. They are wanting to keep you a secret, because the others were not so delicate in their actions word got out of their existence. There are groups actively trying to shut the program down.”

“That sounds right. I am walking on a layer of crust over Hell, and I expect it to collapse.”

The man moved in front of me and risked placing a hand on my chest as he said, “Listen, Eight, you seem to be an all right man, and you do have a successful mission behind you. Work with me and those with me, and we will see that you get taken care of. Don’t know what you will spend your money on, but you will have it to spend.”

“I was a dependable worker, a dependable husband, and a dependable father. I really don’t believe that I deserve to be in Hell, but I accept my fate. God is God, and can decide things as He wants. I will work at being a dependable merc.”

Just then I heard the voice of Dr. Uzuki say, “I put the Bible in your room, Eight.”

Chambers said, “Bible, huh? All that talk, but you really plan on cheating Hell of your soul, don’t you?”

I replied, “I am hoping just not to be so deep.”

“Yes, that is what I tell myself as well, at times, but we need to play to win, Eight. Buddhist myself, but I don’t think you have the mind for that, at least not right now. You read that Bible. If it doesn’t bring you peace, I might let you talk to someone else. I believe that you will be a good addition to my team, so will do what I can to have you continue to walk on that crust over Hell and not fall through. I am going to watch you, then figure out how to help you train. It might take some time, but I see money in you.”

Those words did not disturb me. I understood that any business operated to make money. Employees were merely cogs in the machine to keep the financial payoff continuing. Accepting the words to mean that I now had a new occupation, I went to work.

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PostSubject: Chapter Three   October 10th 2014, 12:57 pm

Walking on a Crust over Hell
TimeSaga Story Eight

Chapter Three

It helped that no one in the group that worked with me called me anything but Eight. I learned their names along with what they considered their specialty. It helped that most also did not use their birth names, as it had me feel that I belonged.

The fact that I was not with a government military squad did surprise me, but I quickly learned that those that had supported and funded the technology that made me no longer wanted anything to do with me. I had learned that there were ten pyramids, but those with me let me know that over twice that many people were grabbed – selected being a very inappropriate word for how we were acquired – for the program with only ten surviving with some type of rational mentality. I knew of three deaths, but the other six had not done well on their first real mission. Only four others still lived with two in critical condition. The other two were now with government agencies, although being hounded by various groups attempting to discredit the agencies responsible for making the pyramids. I was the only success, and to hopefully make some profit I was moved to a non-government mercenary group where it was felt I would stay out of the public eye and put to good use.

Those now a part of my life were not disturbed by my mechanical body. Some spoke of wishing they had a body that could not feel pain and whose parts could be changed out. While I told them that my form was not that great, they mentioned things about the life of a mercenary that would make my mechanical body better for the work that would be demanded.

I did not put up any resistance to developing my skills and learning things about my new occupation. Unlike the doctors and trainers I had as part of the pyramid programs, these men wanted me to have control over my body and mind. Very little of me was still human, but I found myself feeling more like my old self as those with me watched how I acted and had me develop routines that enhanced my natural tendencies instead of forcing my body to go through some type of designed drills.

My mechanical form was stronger than those in my group that felt strength was their asset, and they had trouble pounding on or throwing me. They however took it as a challenge to learn how to overcome me, then forced me to develop methods of not allowing them to do those things to me. I found myself to feel like I was back in a regular body as I felt some pain and fatigue.

Those that used weapons allowed that I was a good shot, but the processes that enabled me to make accurate shots did not help in being creative. If I shot, I hit what I targeted. At times I however did not shoot as somehow I did not register that it would be worthwhile to pull a trigger or throw a knife. They worked with me to learn the computer code that operated my body. It came down to those that used weapons accepting that there were conditions in which not to rely upon me, but otherwise to expect me to accurately send death to those trying to kill us.

The Bible did not help me at all. I was looking for ways to reduce the torture of Hell, but did not find that at all. It only spoke of avoiding the place altogether, and I felt that to be impossible. The Bible seemed to preach to me that God had chosen, predestined, me to not obtain salvation with me continuing to feel that when the crust I was walking upon collapsed I would fall into the lake of fire.

Finally came the day when Chamber strode in calling us together. I was working with a bag while doing footwork. The skill was to give quick, accurate strikes while moving. The computer routines working my body did help, but my mind still had to manage timing to coordinate my feet through obstacles and maintain some stealth. It was grueling, repetitive steps, but my previous occupation tended to be that way as well. At least here I could take breaks as I felt the need. Anyway, we were spread out, but somehow came together with some carrying chairs in the transition area between the gym and weapons section.

“All right, we have our next job, and it should be easy. It’s actually theft, but all my sources, even my credible ones,” Chamber smiled as others laughed before continuing, “say that we are simply stealing from thieves. It could go wrong at many levels, but I believe we can handle it.”

The one I knew as Sandstorm asked, “What’s the catch keeping others from taking it?”

“Big-ass wolves. Oh, endangered big-ass wolves.” Almost everyone thought those words were funny. “Killing them will get us in trouble, while we can kill the people without any problems. That is where Eight can be useful. Damn wolves can attack him and not hurt him. We let him get the attention of the wolves, and we do what we need to do.”

I said, “I am not invulnerable.”

“We will pad and protect your vulnerable parts, Eight. We will also have two snipers assuring that only wolves attack you.”

Sandstorm now asked, “How do we bring Eight back?”

I was grateful with the question, but Chamber simply gave a straight answer. “Gas. Once the wolves are around Eight, he can release a gas canister. Gas puts the wolves to sleep, and he walks out.”

One that I knew as Hitchcock asked, “Anyway that we can practice that? Carrying Eight does not sound like fun.”

“No time, unless you can come up with some method while in the plane. We need to move.”

I cannot say that we were prepared, but we had planned. I thus had my satchel ready, and knew what I had to place in it. In the same manner the others rushed to go through their preparations. I could not say that I would be ready for every contingency, but I went through my checklist hoping that enough of our plans would be manageable.

Hitchcock did come up with a simple set of tests we could do on the plane. The first was them just checking out my legs. They were entirely mechanical. While in a leg design, they were large pieces of sturdy machinery designed to be dependable units to support and move my body. They asked if I could feel them, then banged to see if I flinched even after saying that I could not. I did appreciate that they still covered them with a layer of padding to protect me from whatever force the wolves might try to do to me. Chamber spoke up upon the suggestion that I try targeting my gun while my legs were held, as he mentioned certain routines in my programming causing me to automatically take a gun off safety. I did what other tests my squad members came up with to assure all of us of the success of the mission.

The others in the squad watched me as I tried to assure my footing while moving through the natural terrain. Not only did I need to concern myself with the strength of the substrate, but I sought to move as stealthy as possible. Nobody fussed at me when one step had me sinking into soft ground, but after helping me out whispered suggestions or told me to try other areas. As I complied, they traded signals with each other, then altered certain directions to take into account my needs. I did find myself less concerned with my footing as we advanced through the unmanaged terrain.

We reached the objective without them being alerted. Even the animals were quiet. That had me, and I believe the others, feel that the practice had been worthwhile. Hoping that everything would continue to go properly, we followed the orders to gain the objective in the manner desired.

It did not take much for me to gain the attention of the men and animals. As we had planned, I let the wolves rush me while the two snipers picked off those who acted as if to target me. With the clear opponents taken out, other members of the squad moved up to assure there would not be any hidden problems. Seeing some of the animals act as if they would leave me to rush the other advancing members of my squad, I used the gas to put the wolves to sleep.

At least it would have worked, except that right then ground sprinklers went off. Out in the middle of a jungle, and the camp has ground sprinklers. Actually, I felt that I recognized the system as being the end product of a sewage treatment plant. One did not usually associate anti-government forces with hygiene, but feces was something that a good leader would attempt to control. The fact that this group was able to reasonably care for a group of endangered animals I guess reflected in the fact that they took reasonable care of themselves. As sprays of water from the ground released the filtered liquid back into the environment, I found the effectiveness of the gas highly reduced.

What worked in my favor was that the wolves did not like the water. It did not bother me. Yes, I would need to perform some maintenance, but I did that anyway. My circuits were sealed not just protect them from water, which my designers understood to be a part of the environment, but also to keep them from fraying due to my movements. My body was mostly composed of special alloys that would not rust, but I still operated better when there were no contaminating substances affecting my movements. I had straps on my person for securing the wolves, but instead of using them on sleeping animals I started strapping them on the wolves who stopped in confusion unable to process the situation of being sprayed with water.

Hitchcock moved to me and grabbed straps while saying, “Nothing can ever go as planned, can it, Eight?”

I caught another animal before it could flee the water, and as I put a strap on it I asked, “Are you okay?”

“Once strapped they understand that I have control. You’re doing good, Eight. Should have tranqs getting those that run.”

I heard a whelp, then saw a fleeing wolf drop. I guess the sound of the water helped cover previous shots, as I saw a couple more bodies already down. Accepting that we were all doing our best handling the change in situation, I kept at work securing the wolves.

No one talked about those that were killed. All the conversation on the way out of the jungle was about bringing every animal back alive. We landed at an airport where there were people waiting to take the wolves. I was told to stay in the plane, so I did. I however found everyone gathered with me as Chamber opened a briefcase after we had again lifted off the ground. Everyone now talked about a successful mission and what they were going to do with the money.

I saw some money handed to me as Chamber said, “Sucks to be you, Eight, but most of your share is going to be spent just to keep that body of yours in operation. Still, you need something to allow you to be yourself.”

“I died. I killed myself.” I picked up the bills, then said, “I thus do not know who I am, except a machine that needs to stay operating.”

The man stared at me for a time, then said, “I don’t pay my machines. I also do not have my machines asking to have a Bible with them. Somebody did not die, and I am glad to have that person on my team. Do something with that money, Eight. Whatever you spend it on, you will learn something about yourself. You will then be more of a person on the next mission. Eventually, I think you will find who you are.”

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PostSubject: Chapter Four   October 15th 2014, 12:47 pm

Walking on a Crust over Hell
TimeSaga Story Eight

Chapter Four

I did not get drunk. There really was not enough of my humanity left to make it easy for impurities to bother me. Alcohol worked more as the narcotic it was, as my brain was about the only complete system left of my old body. It was nice having a tasty method of getting to sleep, but I remembered being drunk to bring my body more enjoyment.

Gambling was never a vice of mine. I always considered those that gambled to simply need something to do while they enjoyed their other vices. Coming to a gambling table one could find drinking, smoking (whatever), drugs, women, and talk of other activities. I thus never developed a desire for gambling, as I considered myself better off by limiting the number of vices I would participate in.

I spent my money on purchasing some regular clothes. Since they were going to have to be specially made, I quickly learned that my attire would not be cheap. I however also had them made of rather sturdy material with the hope that I could gain a wardrobe that would last for years.

Chamberss seemed to be constantly involved in arguments with people. With all the noise from his office, I expected some really intense missions. They were however simple affairs handled with the skill base displayed in the action to obtain the wolves. We all found the pay good however, although as Sandstorm picked up his pile of cash I heard what I suspected the arguments were about.

“I’m glad Eight is one of us, as the pay is regular and good.”

I said, “I don’t particularly see how my mechanical body gives us much of an advantage.”

Chamberss replied, “What Sandstorm means, Eight, is that the other pyramids are being killed. I think five is still alive, but the two hospitalized I believe are going to be put out. Certain people would like for you to be put out as well, but I do believe that you give us an advantage. I thus opt for these simple missions.”

Sandstorm added, “It is keeping us alive as well as you, and the pay is good.”

I had to ask, “They are not going to make any more?”

“No, Eight, and some people want laws passed to prevent anyone from making more. Five is harassed because he is in a more public situation than you, and every mechanical problem he has only fires more debate about the cost of the pyramid program.”

Chambers added, “I am keeping a heavy hunk of your pay, Eight, just to pay to keep you operating. You really seem to be well made, but better safe than sorry.”

I said, “I know that you are keeping the money, but I also know that I am getting regular maintenance.”

“Your attitude is good, Eight. Listen, if there is something you want but cannot get, come and ask me. Really, your maintenance is not that costly considering all the other equipment I have to pay to maintain.”

Charcoal, our weapons’ expert added, “And with your accuracy, he is not really spending the money on ammo, so you are probably owed money, Eight.”

I said, “Well, if I come up with something, I will mention it.”

Chambers returned, “Good. Listen, Eight, I will go back over the numbers when we get back, and will send more money your way if it seems that I should.”

Charcoal said, “Or we might decide to see if we can do any upgrade to your mechanics. I am hoping that when they shut down the pyramid program that they will release the specs on that body of yours. We have done what we could with you, but it would help to know a little more before we try any alterations.”

I returned, “Right now I am operating well and not hurting.”

Chambers replied, “We promise not to do anything drastic to you, Eight, as I agree with what you said. Each mission has its own peculiar situations however, so it might help to have you where we can change out certain things.”

Hitchcock interjected, “Things always need to change, Eight. We are growing older, but hopefully you can grow better.”

Charcoal said, “We will discuss our plans with you, Eight.”

I nodded while mumbling, “I guess that it is just part of the job.”

The squad took the words positively. What kept me from feeling the fire of Hell through the thin crust I walked upon were the strong statements of approval from those around me. It helped that those of the squad displayed signs of acceptance. They became more willing to join me in sparring sessions, call me over to work with them in developing strategies, and more interested in my mechanics to improve my movements and performance. Feeling like a true member of the squad, I kept a positive attitude that caused me to feel the flames of Hell less.

I felt the room go quiet. Chambers had called us over, but something in his tone had everyone react in a different manner than normal. Among ourselves we were rather open, and I had heard our leader speak to potential clients a little more harshly than normal. It helped that everyone considered Chambers a member of the squad, and not just a leader, because there was a feeling that he would not accept an overly risky mission in that his ass would be on the line just like ours. I went quiet with the others however feeling that what would be said would not meet with our approval.

As the stragglers began to move up, Chambers said, “All right, guys, we are doing this strictly for the money.”

There was laughter, as being mercs we worked solely for the money. I had to believe that the others also felt the statement meant that we would not find anything other the pay acceptable, as they quickly hushed. I did not laugh, but I did consider what I might do with the money I would gain to drown my memories of the hellish acts I might perform to gain it.

Chambers picked back up without acknowledging the sounds. “There is a lot wrong with this mission. I was turning it down, but we have been paid seventy-five percent up front. That means that we do not need to see this thing through, although backing out too quickly will not make us friends.”

Sandstorm said, “So the first person we kill is the one that paid us, so he won’t ask for his money back.”

“I am almost willing to take up that idea, but I do believe that we can meet our mission parameters. Along with the up-front money, I got them to be rather specific about our mission. That means that I plan on having us go in, do our job, and get out without worrying about anything else.”

From that point the briefing settled into the usual routine. What bothered us was the true reason for the mission. Our squad was only going to supply some support. The facility was a little better fortified than a normal production company, so it was accepted that a single team would not be able to overcome the obstacles toward achieving the actual objective. Chambers let us know what he could, but even with him stressing the exact specifics of our mission I found the others very dissatisfied with the information he provided. The briefing actually was interrupted by Hitchcock asking about a point he considered important.

“Why do you think that those calling for this mission will not tell us more?”

“Because this is one of the facilities that created the pyramids. I believe that they are wanting to assure that the technology of the pyramids is lost, probably along with the remaining pyramids themselves.” Chambers looked at me as he said, “Eight, I am glad to have you on this team, and I promise not to sell you out.” I nodded to those who spoke in support of those words, even as I listened to Chambers say more. “I am expecting certain change of plans to have us pull in, and I am expecting to not obey those commands.”

Those words had everyone tell Chambers to go over the plans one more time. This time not only were the steps to performing our objectives made clear, but everyone went over contingency plans as well. While it did help my attitude to hear the others make it a point that I was not to advance, it also gave me confidence in my squad having a proper mentality when I heard Sandstorm ask a question about the plans.

“Would taking this facility help us? I mean, Eight is one tough ally. Having access to the plant that created him, or at least parts of him, might help us keep him useful.”

It was Charcoal that replied, “We actually have enough about Eight that I have dismantled some things. He no longer will transmit his location and status, so those knowing about him cannot detect him. His motors are powered by the time-loop technology that is beginning to power our world, and with that technology released I know enough not to mess with that. As for the rest of him, he is not beyond our ability to maintain. No, we do not need anything from that facility.”

“Hear that, Eight? We can walk away without any regrets.”

Chambers added, “And I want to say that without any concerns for any other pyramids you might see. Trust me, Eight, when I say that the pyramids were a failure. You are in fine shape, but the others are not.”

I said, “If I thought that I could save them from Hell, I might worry about them. However, I am certain that they are walking over a thin crust just as I am. I doubt that I will be in a situation where I could help them, so I can only hope that God might find their souls worth saving.”

“I hate to say it, Eight, but that really is the right philosophy to have.”

Those words put me and the others in the mood that we could do the mission. The briefing thus fell into the usual manner of assuring conditions necessary to us doing the job. With me agreeing with the others that we could do as stated, we set ourselves to preparing for the mission.

The major difference in this mission and the others was the amount of small arms we carried. On the other jobs we considered things to be going bad if we needed direct personal combat. Of course, things did happen, so we did carry pistols and knives. On this mission I found all of us however acting as if we would primarily be fighting personal battles.

Instead of the usual conversations, or practice with some possibly useful skills, we grew quiet upon hearing the amount of chatter coming over the communications network. Maps were again examined as we assured that our position would not compromise us or others. Chambers listened as some corrections were made to our plans, although he did not mention our conversation to anyone on the network.

We heard some chatter directed at us about the route our plane was flying. While we were already suspicious of the situation, the voices basically giving our position over the network has us all worried about being targeted. Chambers just turned off the radio before assuring that each of us knew our jobs. Hearing words of confirmation, we prepared to leave the plane.

The others wore headsets while I simply had one ear that was electronic and could be set for picking up certain signals. I had put the barrel of the gun to my neck, but the thick bones there prevented the bullet from going into my skull. It tore up one side of my head. The doctors had quickly realized that the brain was still in good condition. Damage to the spine did not fully bother them, as they planned on circuits controlling most of my body. Hearing disturbing chatter about people wondering about our location caused the others of my squad to turn their headsets off along with Sandstorm coming to do something with my head.

“You are the most logical one to track their communications, Eight, but also the one I believe they are looking for. Thus, I am turning your receiver off as well.”

“Thanks.”

That was all I said, but Sandstorm felt a need to say more. “Listen, when we get back I will hold Chambers while you beat the Hell out of him for accepting this mission.”

“I believe that he would have gotten the Hell beat out of him by others if he had not. Let us just beat the odds and survive this, then we can cuss and discuss who needs to be beat on the way home.”

Chambers took a couple of steps so his soft words could be heard. “I appreciate your support, Eight. If you however do have issues with me, the middle of a mission is not the time to voice or act upon them. I gave you opportunities to say things before we left, and you can face me again after we leave.”

It was Sandstorm that said, “You’re right, Sir.”

I believe it was the word of respect that gained the nod from Chambers. He then signaled for the two of us to return to our positions. We obeyed, then without words, but practiced hand signals, we began to move.

Fingers pointed to me as those in the lead stopped the cautious movement forward. While the procedure was not something expected, I knew the signals and responded appropriately. Working my body in the manner of making stealthy steps, I advanced to take the lead.

The one coming could be clearly heard. Of course the occasional burst of bullets helped to declare the coming of someone. We were not in open country, although our targeted facility was set among a settlement cleared of trees. To gain a covert position, we dropped from our plane among foliage. The ground was solid enough to support my weight, although the detritus of the forest did not make it easy for me to take silent steps. The one coming also made noises, and I detected the hum of an engine, so suspected a small vehicle.

Those of us in the pyramid program did know of each other. The doctors allowed the contact so we could provide support to each other. As someone whose body adapted to the cyborg state rather easily, they encouraged me to speak to and aid the others having a more difficult time. I thus did know Five, although quickly realized that the meeting was not friendly as he set a major piece of heavy weaponry on a shoulder and aimed it at me.

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PostSubject: Chapter Five   October 20th 2014, 11:46 am

Walking on a Crust over Hell
TimeSaga Story Eight

Chapter Five

I did not get scared seeing the threat, but calmly said, “It is only a thin crust.”

“What?”

“Over Hell.” Not really caring if Five understood, I said, “I committed suicide. What did you do to have them able to claim your body?”

I felt that I saw his face smile as he answered, “I was a serial killer. Don’t believe in Hell, except as what I did to those before I killed them.”

“Maybe we will meet again.”

“There will be no meeting again.”

Realizing that he had not pulled the trigger, I worked to possibly further make a connection with Five by saying, “Whether you believe in it or not, surely you can say that neither of us are going to a better place.”

“I don’t know. Just leaving this life I feel will be an improvement.”

“Yes, as at times I feel that Hell would be a more rational place.”

Multiple cracks suddenly sounded. Almost simultaneously the blast from a rifle sounded as the barrel of the weapon pointed at me shattered. Another report broke the silence and Five fell after his head suffered massive damage.

Chambers stepped up to say, “I hope you do not mind me claiming his body for spare parts.”

I first made an observation, “It looks like they have made alterations to him,” before saying, “but I would ask that you bury what you can of him.”

It was Hitchcock that replied, “It depends on how much of him remains. We might just cremate, but we can say some words before we do.”

Knowing how little of me I suspected was a part of my mechanical body, I nodded with acceptance of those words. I helped hearing the whispers of my squad stating their approval of my decision. I gave the signal that I was able to continue with the mission, and without words we again started to advance.

Chambers signaled for us to move even more cautiously after one of our squad mumbled about not hearing the usual noise of battle. We were not sent in to perform the major mission, but only to provide support. While stealth was an accepted tactic, taking a major facility was seldom done without incident. This also was not some standard factory in a civilized territory, but a secret operation maintained by special laborers, some unwilling, and guarded by goons who enjoyed causing trouble. No matter about the quality of planning and stealth, once something irregular was noticed we should have heard some noise.

We were signaled to stop. I, of course, took that order with the suspicion that our leader had seen trouble. His focus however was on Sandstorm who paused to put a silencer on one of his pistols. I did not know the reason for the stop, but watched interested in what was going to happen.

A couple of mercenaries from another unit strode up. While not of my squad, they had patch on their clothes indicating that they were part of our mission. As they came toward us, Chambers strode up to them as if to hear what they would say.

Neither acted interested in speaking to my leader, but looked around with one seeing me saying, “Bob, we –“

That was all Sandstorm allowed the man to say. With his silencer in place, there was little sound to the movement of two bullets passing into two skulls. Understanding the situation, I felt the need to say something.

“I guess that I owe you a drink, Sandstorm.”

“Don’t you worry about it, Eight.”

Chambers said, “If we get out of here alive, I will buy everyone a drink. Come on.”

We stopped our advance this time in order to get a good view of the plant facility. I heard a number of soft curses as it was evident that the mission was of a larger scale than we had been led to believe. What caused me to utter such a phrase was a view of them wheeling in gurneys on top of which were bodies that were obviously composed of mostly machinery.

Hitchcock said, “Eight, I believe we are the only ones here interested in scavenging some technology.”

Sandstorm spoke before anyone else could, “Chambers, I vote that we get out of here.”

“No,” our leader replied, “because if we leave now, we are dead men. There is a way to survive this, but we need to see this through.”

“By ‘see this through’ you mean to blow up that facility with everyone inside?”

“Yes, but I believe it will not be as hard as it seems. The only thing is –“ Chambers looked to me to say, “You are the only pyramid to survive, Eight.”

I nodded, then said, “Five said he was a serial killer. All I did was commit suicide. I was a good worker, a good husband, and a good father. It was because of my commitment to my life that I killed myself. Without my wife and son, and dog, I had no reason to continue. That was my only sin, however mortal it might have been.”

Sandstorm said, “Yes, Eight, the rest of those put into the pyramid program were sons-a-bitches. There is a justice in you surviving.”

Chambers interjected, “Yes, but we all also know that life is not fair.”

I fought through my own feelings as I said, “Yes, but… but – but there is a difference in life being not fair and life simply being wrong.”

Before I could say anything more, Chambers said, “Don’t follow those thoughts any further, Eight. Take it from me that it will only lead you to despair. Right now you might feel yourself walking over Hell, but I went through a period where I felt that I was walking through it. You don’t want to go there, Eight. Let’s survive this, then we can talk you feel the need.”

Hitchcock supported the words by saying, “No, Eight, you don’t want to fall in.”

I had to agree, “No, I don’t want to fall in.”

Chambers quickly took advantage of my positive attitude. “Good. All right men, we need to do this right. Considering that the explosives are probably being set for us even as we speak, it should be manageable. Still, they know we are here, and they are probably going to want verification of Eight being put out of commission as well. Thus, we need to consider ourselves as in enemy territory with any mistake being a fatal one. Are you with me?”

Of course we all were. It helped that our opposition was active on a communication network. Chambers did not have us activate our radios, but under the belief that they could track those even passively listening he had Hitchcock use the headset of one of those killed. In taking the devices, he also pulled the dog tags, so we all stopped as he paused to confidently reply.

“Roger, Rabbit One. Lost Atheson in the conflict. Stupid ass for some reason thought he needed to reload – gun jammed or something. Anyway, mission achieved.” He looked around as he heard something in reply, then said, “Roger, Rabbit One. Will be keeping a watch. Out.”

I listened with the others as he then discussed things with Chambers. We had studied the terrain before coming to the mission site, so could place certain features. What Hitchcock supplied was information about the activities of the other groups, and we listened as the two came up with a strategy for gaining the upper hand.

It ended up being an elegant plan, although it did force me to realize that I was going to be the last of my kind. While the conversion into a cyborg had not been with problems, I had been learning that my state was unique. The human body did not easily accept foreign substances. It took the development of special alloys of a number of substances to get my body to acclimate to their presence. It took further science to get what was left of my body to function properly with entire sections missing. I had to live with the hope that mankind learned in the making of me, but that it was a lesson they would not be allowed to repeat.

The facility was set to blow. The plan we came up with was basically to remove those on the fringe until we found the activation device. We had come prepared for close personal combat. Silencers were placed on pistols, and other tools of direct serious violence were readied. Only a couple, maybe three, reports from rifles would sound to get those noticeably alert. We then moved in and took out the rest. The second time we did that we found ourselves looking at the device that would cause the explosives in the facility to go off.

We did not give a warning. There was no call for anyone to leave. Chambers softly told us to pray, then after a few moments he did what was necessary to detonate the facility.

I have to say that I was not the only one surprised at the silence that followed the explosion. Chambers did not have us stay around to clean up the mess. After the explosion, he gave the command to flee. A few activated headsets to hear the chatter, which would possibly include commands to seek us out and kill us. As if surprised, I heard some in squad report that the others not in the facility were simply being told to pull out.

No missile or other threat came upon us as we flew home. Some mentioned what military facilities were near our flight path along with concern for what vessels might be in the water. We however reached our base without being given any warning or seeing any threat rush upon us.

The next fear was that we would not see work. Chambers however found a number of job offers coming to him. No one mentioned the facility, but I was told that many asked about me. When someone would come to our base, I found them to boldly come to me and shake my hand. No mention of me being the last survivor of the pyramid project was ever made, although some did ask about the condition of my body. I always told them that it continued to work, and they would then seek other more normal things to speak about. While some dangerous missions did get offered to us, we accepted the work understanding the nature of our business.

I found myself accepting the life of a mercenary. There were times when I thought back on the life I had. Realizing that I now lacked the love of a wife, a son, and even a dog would bring a tear to my eyes. I sometimes cried with the thought of not seeing them again, or even finding them in Hell when the crust I walked upon finally gave away beneath me. Other mercenaries would see me reading the Bible and discuss religion with me, but never did I gain any comfort. I simply accepted each job understanding that my old life would never return to me.

Hitchcock did say to me one day as we relaxed after a sparring session, “Eight, why do we still call you Eight? Shouldn’t you be One, or Only, or something like that?”

“No,” I replied, “as I want it known that I was not alone. I was not the only pyramid made.”

Charcoal said from his place among the weapons, “I agree with Eight on that. There were a number of wrong things done by those in the pyramid program. We might not be in the public eye, but there are enough that know about Eight that there is pressure not to allow such a program start up again.”

Hitchcock said, “Well, I am told that there is a lot of work now to build robots.”

“You can turn those off. You don’t turn a cyborg off without a discussion about mistreatment of a human being.”

I said, “I would second that.”

Hitchcock replied, “Well, I was told that these new robots will be able to relate to us as humans, and they are hoping to make some that even resemble humans.”

“But they won’t be human.”

“No, Eight, but I will bet that they will be given numbers as well.”

Charcoal said, “No, I bet they are given names.”

Hitchcock looked as if he was sizing me up as he asked, “How about it, Eight. What if we bought you some cybernetic beauty? Would you give her a name?”

“No, but I would be worried that her programming would be such that she would seek to give me one.”

Both men laughed, which caused others to move other to hear the reason for the sounds. When told, the others made sounds of finding the comment humorous as well. I thus settled with those of my squad finding myself satisfied with my life. While still concerned for my place as just being on a thin crust over Hell, I felt that I could safely walk with the hope of others possibly being able to catch me.

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