I finished a short story about two months ago and I though, hey why not get some input on it? So basically I would like it if some of you guys could give me some constructive criticism on this, I worked very hard on this and I want to know where you think things could be expanded upon or fixed. So basically rip it apart where you think it should be, ripped apart. I also plan on making this story into a full fledged book someday, a daunting task I know, but I feel this has potential. so I will expand upon this short story of mine. Again anything you guys think should changed, or have a strong opinion about tell me! So here it is, The Collector, I hope you enjoy!
Note: For some reason indents aren't copied over from word, just ignore that minor annoyance.
The CollectorEver since I was born, I was taught to be as efficient as possible. I was told to be a machine, to live in a dark industrial chamber. I was told to lock myself away, to let the life of slavery take me, a simple life with next to no freedom.
The freedom I did find came from my father teaching me the efficiency of defiance. They expected me, Johnson Kirkland, to be efficient at my job, a job I did not choose for myself nor wished to have. The oppressors, at first, were only slightly annoyed at the first stages of my defiance—refusing to complete the simplest of tasks properly. However, it was this defiance that would eventually lead to a dreaded day.
It’s a day I see so distinctly, it’s hard to realize it happened twenty-some years ago, when the first seeds of resistance sprouted, and with those seeds came the first strike.
I remember it so…
My father was right next to me, showing me the plan he and his allies had formulated to escape the city known as Krolin, a heavy industrial city at the forefront of our oppressors, the Imperium, a group bent on shaping New Jericho into a world that was better and more efficient than that of anywhere else.
How wrong they were.
Krolin was about to enter a stage of revolution. My father was showing me the escape route we would take. That was when the first sound of gunfire could be heard. I stared at my dad for a moment; I could remember the pale look that developed on his face, his rough features turning from a gleaming smile to a frown. My father quickly looked away from me towards the staircase where the sound of heavy footsteps was coming from.
“Run!” he shouted. “Follow the plan just as we practiced.” My father was quickly shredding papers and tossing them away, panic engraved on his face. “Don’t let anyone stop you,” he continued. “A group of friends will meet you halfway through the sewers.”
My father kissed me on the forehead and embraced me. To my surprise, he placed a silver sheening combat knife into my hand, engraved with intricate swirls and his name. His prized possession.
“Are you sure?” I started.
“Yes,” he replied, pushing me towards the small hole in the wall we had dug all those months before. “Remember John, your efficiency is defiance, and defiance is your weapon.”
My father hefted his Phoenix Rifle, slamming a magazine home, beginning a sprint towards the staircase. “Now pick up the pace…I’ll be with you soon.”
He ran up the staircase, and never looked back.
My hand clenched on the handle of my father’s knife. I kneeled to the ground and began crawling into the foxhole. As I heard the loud roar of an Imperialist’s plasma rifle, I found myself whispering, “Let defiance guide me.”
I concealed the silver blade in my pocket—unable to bear the pain of seeing the man’s name on the hilt any longer—and again burrowed into the darkness. “Helisken!” A crude voice shouted. I gave pause to this, the dreaded word. The frosty, bone crackling word of the Imperium had been summoned and with it, their wrath.
I sometimes reflect on that day, thinking the loss of my father was actually for the better. Had I not been left to my own devices, I would never have risen through the ranks and gained the respect of my fellow soldiers.
Other times, however, I wonder if I’m just fooling myself. The war has been raging for far too long. I’ve been fighting my way through hordes of Imperium soldiers, watching scores of good men cut down by their tremendous power. So was that day or any part of my life since then truly for the better?
“No, it isn’t,” a cold voice said. I turned to see Mitchel, a former Imperialist himself, red eyes, pallid skin, and a face full of crazy glyphs burned into it. I just stared at him. At least he’s on our side now, using those cerebral implants to manipulate our enemies. Unfortunately, he could also snoop around my thoughts….
“I see you still dislike me reading you,” he said dully, leaning against the corridor wall.
“Very much so,” I responded, averting my gaze from him, looking instead to the bleak end of the hall.
“I can help, you know,” Mitchel said, his voice echoing through my skull.
“And why would I allow that?” I asked, turning to him and raising an eyebrow. I think he knows—no, must know—that I don’t trust him completely. I have complete confidence in his ability to fight, but how can you trust someone who can read your mind and who once worked for the enemy?
“Because you need it…you’re confused, as usual.” There was an odd, friendly smile on his face. Mitchel never smiled… something was off about him today.
“I’ll be fine Mitch, just let me be.”
“Suit yourself.” He walked off, his cerebral implants gently dangling from his head.
Am I really confused about what I am doing? I asked myself this, staring into the deep intricate designs engraved on my father’s blade. For twenty some years, have I been gunning down Imperial scum just to be wrong? Would it really have been so bad to just live a simple life controlled by the Imperium? Could we have learned to get by in that way we had been living, and thus avoided this terrible war?
I pondered this, slowly pushing myself off the floor, venturing after Mitchel. Maybe I do need some help, I thought. But Mitchel seemed to have disappeared.
I suddenly realized I had been standing in the middle of the hallway staring off into space, pondering these thoughts like a numbskull. Soldiers were staring at me, some looking at me with concern, some laughing away, waving hands in front of my blank face and poking at my fatigues.
“You okay, Sir?” a young soldier asked, giving me a little shake.
“Uh, yeah, yeah—I’m fine, thanks son,” I replied, walking away speedily. It’s not good for the soldiers to know this squad leader sometimes gets lost in his own thoughts talking to himself.
I kept advancing down the hall, making a beeline for the elevators. If what Mitchel said is true, that I’ve always been confused, then I must find him. I mean, just there, I was standing in the middle of a bustling hallway…this can’t continue. If I truly am mentally unstable I need Mitchel’s help before my stupidity gets in the way.
I searched for Mitchel for what seemed like hours. Finally, I came upon a huge bulkhead that led into a cavernous space known as Hangar 68, otherwise known as forbidden grounds. “This has to be it,” I thought aloud. Why this area was forbidden, I can’t answer, but this was the last possible place to check for Mitchel, so in I went.
The place was littered with all sorts of garbage, ranging from out of service CC18 Arbiter Gunships to heaps of unintelligible junk. It definitely did seem like a place someone would hide, but certainly Mitchel wasn’t hiding from me…
“Get on the ground!” a voice commanded from off in the distance, followed by a chorus of shouts. Who could that be, I thought, and more importantly who is he shouting at? I guess me and Mitchel—if Mitchel’s even here—aren’t alone in this place.
Of course we aren’t, John, a cool voice answered, unlike the cruel shout from the darkness. Now get the hell over here before I’m ripped to pieces! This new voice had materialized out of nowhere, and seemed to emanate from no obvious source or location. However, the voice was most definitely Mitchel’s, but where is he, and what had he gotten himself into?
“To the ground or I’ll shoot!” The far off voice echoed.
I began a mad dash towards where I thought the voice was coming from, taking long strides over thickets of rusting scrap metal and vaulting over the long drained fusion engines of gunships. I eventually came upon Mitchel, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. He was surrounded; I counted roughly a dozen rebels, all of them with rifles poised and ready to fire at Mitchel’s dark form.
“What’s going on here?” I demanded, stepping out of the wreckage of some long decayed vehicle. I was met by the gaze of several rebels, none of whom I recognized, all of which proceeded to step back from their ring. One approached, dressed in very rare suit of Nano-forged armor, only used for the most special of operatives. This could only mean one thing: Mitchel did something—something very wrong…
“Sir,” said the looming figure, giving a quick salute and staring down at me through his silver visor. “We’ve been ordered to execute former Imperialist Mitchel Xeljun for treason.”
“What? That’s bull, Mitchel did nothing wrong!” I shouted at the armored man. “I demand you stop this now, and lay down your arms!”
“No can do,” the soldier answered. “Direct orders from the head man himself.”
Don’t worry John, I’ve got this. Mitchel’s cool voice resounded through my head, spinning up a torrent of shearing pain that sent me to the floor.
I could only see a glimpse of what happened. A rusty mist filled the air, followed by a low, grueling howl.
“What the hell was that?” I grunted, attempting to raise my head to no avail. I was pinned to the floor by a tremendously strong force. I couldn’t move, but I could feel. I could feel hot, sticky blood wrapping around me.
But no one had fired a single bullet…had they?
No, no one did, Mitchel’s cool, disembodied voice replied. I’m afraid I can no longer speak audibly. Mitchel stood across from me, catching his breath, blood dripping from his mouth. You may also like to note that you’re free now.
I pushed myself up to a crouch. The sight in front of me was the work of the devil. Long slim ghoulish pikes had impaled every rebel soldier, one in the heart and head for each.
“What did you do?” I snapped, kneeling down next to a young soldier, his face completely drained of life. Even the Nano-forged armored man lay still on the floor, although for some reason he had been impaled a multitude of times, unlike the rest.
I did my job—kill the rebels, Mitchel replied. The ominous voice seemed almost happy, as if this was pleasing. Now, I take it you came searching for some help, yes? Didn’t you need my help to clear up your mind?
“No, not anymore,” I replied in a restrained voice. How did he divert himself to such a low priority situation so quickly? I’d think after slaughtering at least twelve allies—
No, not allies, he intervened.
I felt the sudden urge to punch him in the face then, but I’m sure it didn’t matter to him.
Now, let me start by saying this was necessary, an example of the disease you’ve spread to so many. This…bacteria, if you will it…named Defiance, was it?
This caught me. Defiance a disease? How can that be? I stood there staring at Mitchel’s pallid face.
I’ve got your full attention? He asked bluntly. His expression had changed, from a crude smile to… a ghoulish grin. I’m here to help you, John. You may think the parasite Defiance is a measurable weapon to resist the Imperium, but have you considered what it’s done? Have you considered how many lives it’s burned? Have you considered the deadliness of the plague you’ve sprouted?
This…this is a trick. Defiance is my efficiency; therefore, it is my weapon. Mitchel said nothing, but only stared at me. I felt my thoughts running away from myself. But weapons are lethal if not used correctly…aren’t they? This sudden thought of mine stunted me. I stopped to think about this for a moment. Did I use defiance incorrectly?
You’re getting it, Mitchel’s cool voice crooned. He stepped forward, his deep blood red eyes burning into me. I’ll now show you exactly what this infestation has done.
My gaze was locked onto Mitchel, unwavering as his searing red eyes grappled me into a mind boggling mist. I stumbled and the world became a complete blur. Slowly it rematerialized into a shadowy view. Suddenly I had begun to relive a bloody war scene. Scores of men were running, running headstrong into a green luminescent wave of plasma; they bore no weapons, only fists and angry shouts. They just ran, right into the green mass, not even reaching the black horde sending the torrent their way. Is this really what defiance has done? Has it really rallied men and women to war, throwing them against a juggernaut? They just allow themselves to be gunned down in the hope they made a difference. Is this what defiance has caused, utterly pointless death, mass genocide? I cringed at the thought of so many innocent beings needlessly getting slaughtered. Were my father’s words only a masquerade created to send innocent people to their death? Was it his fault, planting the seeds of defiance, the seeds of death?
The image slowly faded to a haze, an invisible force pulling me back into reality. I stood there staring into Mitchel’s cold eyes, the look on his face still, a demonic grin.
But, Mitchel, Mitchel must be trying to trick me. Only an Imperialist would try to throw me off course. Sure, I may be confused, but certainly I haven’t gone so far off the edge as to send people to their graves unintentionally. I found myself slugging Mitchel square in the face, sending him to the blood-enriched floor. I raised my wrists, preparing for some sort of retaliation, but none came.
It’s only logical that the one who spreads the virus is infected himself, isn’t it? Mitchel’s voice was as calm as ever. In fact he was already on his feet, licking the blood from his lip.
John, I know it’s hard, but to defy me would be foolish. Mitchel was now circling me, as though he were sizing me up. Yes, it’s so tempting, but adding to the inferno is unnecessary. Don’t send anymore innocents to their deaths, don’t ruin anymore families…don’t destroy yourself.
I asked myself, Am I really a confused helpless fool that sends people to mass graves and poisons the minds of the young… are you virtually killing yourself, John? I felt as though an iron anvil had fallen on me. I have made a grave mistake.
You see, John, Mitchel’s hardened voice echoed, I, The Collector, am a mere courier. I was sent here with the message of your savage disease, that’s all. I was no true rebel; it was all a disguise. I’m an Imperium infiltrator, here to collect you, for the cause, the cause of justice—
“And salvation,” I ended.
Mitchel had a proud gleam in his eyes. He had succeeded for I now felt compelled. I had the will to snuff out this disease. I will show no mercy. I will do what is necessary. I will be the alcohol rubbed in the wound. I will sting, slowly disinfecting the mauled gash.
I smiled as this sank in. I am salvation.
Now, it is necessary that The Collector actually collects you, isn’t it John?
It’s all been a lie. It’s time to set things right. I unsheathed my father’s silver blade, and gave it a good stare. Thanks for nothing, devil. I threw the dagger to the floor, watching without remorse as the intricate swirls shattered to pieces. Hmph…I always remembered it being stronger.
**EPILOGUE**The faces in front of me were so fearless. Some wore smirks, some yipping away with clever insults, and some just bold and dead quiet.
“Permission to begin, my Lord?” an Imperium soldier asked, his blood red visor looking into me, like the devil’s gaze.
“Give me a moment,” I responded sternly, giving each of the twelve men a careful observation. They looked so, how would you put it? Free? Fools, there is no freedom but in the Imperium. They think they’re so defiant with their rebellion? No, they are just simply fools, fighting a hopeless battle against God and his armies.
It had started raining. This rain was different than the kind I was used to…black as obsidian, and cold as the dead space it originated from. I took a glance at the sky, silent and enriched with a blanket of pitch darkness.
“Lord?” The soldier asked again. He seemed anxious, a true soldier lusting for a kill, just as a true soldier should.
“Yes, my Lord.”
The soldier barked off a series of orders. Twelve Imperium soldiers lined up, one behind each rebel captive, all wielding an executioner’s blade. The blades’ jagged teeth sat at each man’s throat, awaiting the glorious command.
“Helisken!” The soldier shouted swiftly. Each man’s throat was slowly slit, the blades’ teeth viciously glowing to life, searing into the rebels’ flesh.
I turned from the execution, wearily looking back as the executioners kicked the rebel corpses into the crimson stricken mud. Fools and failures, that’s what they were, no more. These men were led by a falsified belief. I changed that; their bodies now run pure, through justice, through Helisken.
Helisken…such a marvelous word. I began trekking toward the looming doors of the Sanctum of Justice. They shouldn’t have ever believed in me. I was a false prophet, forced with the task of spreading this thing known as Defiance. Now I hunt. I hunt for salvation, for redemption, to set things right to justify what has been done… to cleanse this forsaken planet.
“Helisken,” I whispered to myself, “let it guide us.” The doors closed behind me.
Thanks for taking the time to read this,
Sargent5 or Scott