Gale Rising (Part 80)

Gunze bled on the ground where he’d been shot. Patrickson stood over him. The aura of reality kept our powers from working. The gauntlet gleamed on the table, distant. The walls weren’t yet splattered, but dripped.

Gunze gurgled once and went limp on the ground.

Dauphin island.

We were back on dauphin island.

My fists clenched. The aches drifted across my muscles like a symphony, a symphony obliterated with a checklist.

I bled from a half dozen wounds. My nose was shattered. I didn’t have any armor left, half civilian clothes. The gun had been kicked under the table.

But I had something else on my side. The built up rage from months of struggling, of last second saves, of having people abandon me into the night and having to hold on by my shattered nails.

“We’re back here,” Patrickson laughed like a wounded jackal. He turned to face me. Half of his face was made of blossoms. Long elegant petals ate up his skin. He’d given up so much. I could understand. “Very resourceful, Gale. I didn’t think you’d bring the entirety of Rutherford’s forces down on my head.”

I’d never forgive.

“Allies,” I said. My head swam. This version of me had a concussion. “They’re really nice.”

Patrickson laughed. “You don’t have any allies here.”

Colton was out cold. Hands thrashed in the grip of a clutch of Patrickson’s soldiers, now rendered faceless. My eyes met hers.

And she nodded once. Her eyes flicked over to Colton, then back to mine.

Real. They were both real. Patrickson had dragged them out here to watch. Dragged them out from whatever hell he’d kept them in, whatever strange hospital dream, whatever better world he’d promised.

This was personal now. For both of us.

“I think I remember what the old bet was,” Patrickson said, his voice echoing through the dream. The man cracked his knuckles, like tiny fireworks, and I slowly slid into a stance, ignoring the lingering pain of my broken nose. We both knew what was going to happen next.

“This isn’t real,” I said.

“This is my world,” Patrickson said. “As I’ve said, again and again, what I want to be real is.”

“You’re dying.” I said. “You’re dying out there. You’re hiding in here to avoid that.”

“I’m not dying yet,” Patrickson said. “It’ll take more than a bomb to end me. But by the will of god himself, sitting in his glowing leaden tomb, I’m going to take you with me. You brought this on yourself.”

“By living!?” I screamed at him, getting back to my feet. My ribs were broken. I felt weak, woozy without the grip of air to give me more information. The portable beacon still sat on the table, suppressing it. “What crime’s so horrible that I deserve this!?”

“I want to bring peace,” Patrickson said. Hands thrashed in her restraints, biting down on the hand over her mouth. “You fought against that. Keep her retrained,” His eyes never left mine. The formless bodies kept her tucked in, despite her best attempts.

“This isn’t about you,” Patrickson said. “Don’t you get that?”

Her teeth sank into the flesh of the faceless creatures holding her, and the Commander’s eyes flicked.

I moved on autopilot, because it was too fast for my mind to process, but I’d been dreaming of this exact moment for so long my body knew the moves better than I did.

I struck in. Guinevere and Excelsior had to be on their way. The dream wouldn’t hold them back for long. What was the old idea?

Trade vitality for time? 

But the Cuban Patrol didn’t have defences against his attack. They weren’t being snuffed out, not yet, but if I didn’t win here…

Well, I’d cause the probable collapse of the south of america. No pressure.

My fist flashed in, and Patrickson moved out of the way. His head turned to stare at me. “Yes, our wager.”

“I hate you,” I spat. It was mixed with blood. Months old blood, from the last time we’d met. A bit of it had to be new. It all tasted the same.

“I think about this moment a lot.” Patrickson turned the rest of the way to face me. Half of his head rippled in the nonexistent breeze. “Where I stole the blood of gods from the basement, and paused to entertain a few children with dreams of being a hero.”

I watched him warily.

“Each blow you land on me means I let another one go,” Patrickson said. “That’s the wager.”

“How many this time?” I asked. My lips had almost been bitten through. We were nearly at the end of our fight, then.

“A couple hundred,” Patrickson shrugged. “I hope you don’t mind.” He cracked his fingers. “We might be here awhile.”

I swallowed.

This wasn’t about me. Fifteen minutes in exchange for my life.

I slid into a better place for combat. Legs spread. Ignored the spray of my own blood on the ground, the bits of Gunze that still decorated this unhallowed shrine.

“You took lessons from the patrol,” Patrickson said. “You know I helped design those, I helped design most of it.”

“Shut the fuck up,” I hissed. “I just want you to shut the fuck up. For once in your miserable existence. Stop giving me stupid platitudes about godhood and making it all better,” I hissed.

“Whyever would I do that?” The commander asked, raising his one remaining eyebrow.

I struck in, hurled myself forward, and he danced out of the way like a willow in wind, letting me slide past him on the slick floor.

“Make me,” Patrickson laughed.

“Your play for godhood is over.”

“Not yet.” Patrickson said. “My heart might be bare,” he said, laughing. “But there’s nobody left out there to take advantage of it.”

I swung in again, and he blocked my fists across his bare arms. Ducked into my guard like a trained boxer. Our eyes met, and he punched hard into my chest. I swung back, spinning around on my foot, and then came in again, using the momentum left over from the dodge.

Another block, moving supernaturally fast. His face rippled in perfect bloom, a few petals falling free. “At this rate, they’re all going to die.”

Hate ignited again. This was my nightmare. This was my nightmare, but everyone was depending on me now.

That was another nightmare entirely.

But it was also my dream. My dream of being able to go back to this moment, with new skills and new training, to win this fight. He’d given be absolution at the same moment he’d doomed me.

“Please, Gale,” Patrickson said. “Make this difficult, at least.”

Hands thrashed in the grip of the soldiers. Osteor wasn’t here. He probably didn’t want to watch even a simulacrum of her.

I glared at him. How the fuck was I supposed to hit him?

“You killed many of my men without your powers,” Patrickson teased. “And now you can’t even hit me?”

My eyes jerked towards the beacon, then back to Patrickson. “That won’t save you either,” Patrickson said.

I ran at him and he skipped to the side. A damn dancer. 

But I hadn’t been wanting to hit him. Instead, my hands grabbed at the desk, and just the tips hooked against the shelf on the wall. I swung one of the beakers shelves at him, glass and chemicals splattering in his direction. Patrickson ducked low, but a vial exploded across his head.

“One,” Patrickson said. “I suppose that counts,” He snapped his fingers, and all of the chemicals left his body. All of the glassware disappeared as well.

“I think it’s pathetic you have to use faceless soldiers,” I hissed. “Because none of them can stand to be on your side.”

“They’re allowed to disagree,” Patrickson said. He took a step towards me. “I suppose you’ll want me to start attacking now?”

“Sure,” I said, staring at him. “Why not?”

It wouldn’t help either of us. Raw rage didn’t do much to literal decades of fighting the worse creatures that central america could drag up.

Then he moved like a jaguar and I remembered exactly how this went the last time. Patrickson wasn’t a lumbering bear. His fist snapped between my blocking arms.

Straight across my waiting face. My nose split open again, and gushed like a faucet. His fist continued in, splitting skin. He tore open old cuts from the past, and new cuts from the assault. I reeled back, clutching my face.

“Where’s your heroism?” he asked. “I dreamed of this moment too. When the hero I left behind would grow strong enough to make me question me ideas. But you’re just confirming them.”

I glared at him, hands streaked with blood, and ignored the pain in the back of my head throat, the wooziness from blood loss. No quarter.

Even for myself.

I could afford no quarter.

Patrickson laughed. “Stand, great hero. Killing you is no great struggle. I want to see you bleed yourself dry.”

Hands closed her eyes as she watched me. Stopped struggling. I watched her. What was she doing? Was she making amends? Praying? Thinking of all the things she should’ve done with her life?

I didn’t blame her.

Blood trickled over my lips and into my mouth, then down my chin. I snarled like a wild beast, spraying it across the room.

“Well?” Patrickson asked. “Should I attack again?”

I took a drunken swing towards him, nausea hitting me halfway through the motion. His fists slammed up into my arms. Lifted them up out of their normal range of motion. Muscles screeched, nerves sang, and then he lifted his knee and caught me across the chest with it.

“I spent decades at the top of my game,” Patrickson said. “This isn’t a story where the plucky hero wins. Haven’t you figured that out yet?” I slid back, trailed, barely keeping on my feet, barely awake. “This is the end of your story.”

But he’d slung me back towards the gun, the same gun I’d failed to grab so many months ago.. It was already fading out of reality. His eyes were focused on it. My hands were smeared with blood.

I looked at Hands, then back at Patrickson. Breathed. Remembered Excelsior, remembered Guinevere. I was in a dream, yes, but the dream was in Green Towassa. The Dream was under the same rules.

So what if the dream was under Patrickson’s truth, so what if Fafnir made his truth more powerful than I could ever dream.

I still had mine.

Maybe that was enough.

“That won’t work,” Patrickson pointed out. “That’s also under my control.”

I said fuck it and dove for it. My shoulders jammed against the table, knocking it forward,a dn then I snagged the butt of the gun with my fingertips. It spun, nearly out of reached.

Snagged it, plucked it up. Patrickson stood over top of me.

The gun was already fading.

I thought of how much I hated Patrickson. How much I hated what he’d done to me. How he had killed almost every single person who had died since Negalli’s death, whether it be from having to run a hero squad without any heavy hitters, or the men who had died assaulting Patrickson’s keep.

Mads was dead because of him. I’d never get to know Mads.

Gunze was dead because of him. I’d never get to know him either.

Mary wasn’t going to run again. She had made the decision herself, but if fucking Patrickson had never existed, she would’ve had her last shot at glory another time. She would still be able to protect her family like a wounded grizzly.

Cassandra was hurt. Colton had been shot because of him. Excelsior had had to abandon Guinevere because of him.

Hands had to murder because him.

The source of nearly everything that had gone wrong since the day I’d won the hearts of Mobile.

I hated him.

The gun flickered back into reality, jacknawed and hemmed together with glowing purple.

Ah.

That was my truth.

I took the shot. It whizzed under Patrickson’s arm, not even touching his armor. He hadn’t been able to evaporate it. It was real, real as I could get it with my Truth bundled around it. Please.

Patrickson knee hit me again, and I hit the back of a desk, but the bullet had already passed through into the dream. I saw stars. “That was your big move? Trying to shoot me? What was that supposed to do? You don’t know how to aim.”

I had no air to reply. Concussion.

But I was glad.

Because I hadn’t been aiming for him. Behind him stood the rest of the room.

Because I hadn’t gotten here on my grit alone. I’d dove into hell itself just so I could drag them back. But here, in the depths of the nightmare, where my Truth was trickling from my finger tips, where lies made more sense than muscle, I knew there was a better truth.

I had friends. And Patrickson only had shadows.

The bullet smashed into the head of the guard holding Hands back. Bone broke, and hot black blood splattered out where the brain should’ve been, crackling forth in a display of cacophonic fireworks and crackling reality.

Then he exploded. A massive invisible hand, caked in gore burst out of his chest.

But I couldn’t see the rest too well.

I fell to the ground, clutching my ribs. Shattered. Too many pieces.

“This is the story where bitter old man who has mourned his son for decades gets what he finally wants, and changes this miserable world into something better,” Patrickson said, taking a few steps forward. He left footprints in my blood. Then he left one on my stomach, grinding it in.

I bubbled blood between my lips. It coated the back of my throat like honey.

Hands thrashed behind him, struggling to throw off the rest, one less person holding her back.

Come on Hands. Please. Save me.

“I know they’re coming for me.” Patrickson said. “But they’re not going to escape my dream in time. I’ll keep them here until my heart is protected. I’ll devour the whole of the Cuban Patrol if I have to. Because that’s the heroic thing to do, Gale. I am a martyr, I will kill my past and my friends and family if it means achieving what I need to achieve. There’ll be no tombstones in my world. No shallow graves.”

The boot came up. I tasted blood in the back of my throat. I stared at it.

“You’ll be remembered,” Patrickson promised, pressing down. Stars danced across my vision. Darkness hemmed in. My fingers thrashed. The mind was willing but the body was weak.

Hands. Hands, please. I need this.

I’d spent countless weeks having nightmares about this exact. This exact moment.

When I’d come up short against him again.

Where despite all of my training, my pain, my rage. My allegiances, my demands, my treaties.

The people I’d saved. The people I’d killed.

It came up short.

“But first, I’m going to kill you.”

My ribs snapped like toothpicks.

Please.

All I could really see was what my drifting eyes saw, half lidded, drunk with pain.

And my last hope struck out. She bit down on the fingers over her mouth and broke the bone, her eyes wild with rage.

“GET THE FUCK OFF OF GALE!” Hands screamed.

The guards grabbed her, shapeless, formless, wrapping around her hand, keeping her pinned in place like a rabid beast.

The invisible hand that was supposed to be suppressed was there. The soldiers grappled with it, demanded it to stay still. Over a thousand pounds tried to keep it in place. But Hands wasn’t content to have her rage be stopped there.

So they tried to kill it. They bent it back against the invisible appendage. Far enough that it shook from tension.

It snapped.

Like my ribs. Hands screeched, but didn’t stop fighting. Because how could she? She knew better.

She lashed out, flinging blood and invisible gore out, and then-

Then the hand bissected. Split in half. Wet ripping fabric and shattered bone.

Hands was a good name, because now there were two. One dripped, visibly from the ethereal outline, and smashed through the ranks of the soldiers. They broke like glass beneath the sudden assault. Both hands whirred like death. Indestructible death.

“FUCK OFF!” Hands shouted. “GODDAMN YOU, YOU DIE HERE!”

“That’s-” Patrickson said, and Hands was on him in seconds. “Not supposed to happen.”

He took a fist to the face.

The dream flickered for a moment. Just long enough, maybe. Maybe we could get all the hits in this time. “THAT’S TWO!” Hands spat.

Maybe she could save everyone where I couldn’t.

Patrickson was good at hand to hand, but this was different. Four hands on two was simple math, and there wasn’t enough room to summon his roots. He was surprised, caught off guard. In the dream, he was but mortal. Perhaps that was the downfall? Or perhaps he was just half dead already, and this moment of defiance was a moment of weakness.

I’d feel victorious if it wasn’t for the fact my ribs had turned into pulp, and blood was dripping out of my open mouth. If it wasn’t for the fact my lungs felt ragged and wet, and I couldn’t do much more than gurgle.

If pain wasn’t dulling my nerves.

If I couldn’t hear my heart thumping in my ears.

Too late Hands.

In the next moment, Colton was back on his feet. The dream was out of his eyes, now. The flicker had saved him.

“Gale!” He shouted.

The dream was out of their eyes.

They were alive, they were awake, they were there, they were real, so wonderfully real. My friends, my friends, they were alive.

I’d done it. They were alive.

I’d done it.

Patrickson stood between them and I, and they struck like wild beasts. Three. Four. Five.

They’d do all the hits for me.

And Colton’s knife sliced into Patrickson’s blossom face and found something meaty inside of it. An eye put out. Hand beat his bones into pulp.

And reality shook and shimmered as the dream came to a grinding screeching halt. The last thing I saw was their faces as they lunged to my side.

That was what love was, I guessed.

Reality shattered. Dreams died.

—-

Face down in a crater. I vomited blood. The parachute strung across me made a decent blanket to rest on. Didn’t help my ribs. I reached out with an arm, managed to flip back on my side. The behemoth sat far above the battlefield, still split in half. Bits of Gunze rained from the heavens, split open upon the awe inspiring devastation wreaked upon the Fafnir by the real bomb. Crystalline blue sky, the blue sky of Alabama poked through the trailing edge of the heavens. I could see the real sun shining through it.

The upper half of Patrickson was gone. He wasn’t nearly as godly as he thought he was. In the mass, somewhere, flickering and almost invisible, his heart beat. I could feel it stir the air, not connected to a single living mass of flesh.

My ribs were still broken. I kept that between the dream.

But the job wasn’t over. Not yet. Not while Patrickson still had time to heal.

“-me in-” Mads sparked through the radio in a haze of static and crackling fields and motes of twisting light. “Come in. Do I have clearance to take the shot, I do not have eyes on any livin-”

Right hand came up. Tapped the radio. Please, for the love of god. Please. I didn’t have much longer.

“Mads,” I rasped. “Mads, you there?” I could taste blood. I could taste so much blood. My heart wouldn’t beat for much longer.

Silence. Silence over the radio. Nobody was there, nobody was-

Then he replied.

“You sound rough,” Mads said. “I was… somewhere, else, but now-”

“Mads,” I said. “Shut up.”

“Yessir?” 

“Take the fucking shot.”

“Aye,” Mads said.

The sniper rifle went off. It was a nearly impossible shot from my position, through several half collapsed buildings, panes of broken glass.

But Mads had been deployed against a god before. He knew how to aim. He knew the math.

He knew the real steel would pierce through nigh anything in its path. The silencer ate most of the noise.

Far above, with my ears perked to listen, to hear anything, I heard the bullet stroke home.

Patrickson’s unprotected human heart popped like a grape.

And fuck it if I didn’t roll over and try to die gracefully.

——-

In a place between worlds, we crossed paths. He stood, bloodied, a hole through his heart, and I stood without looking and saw without eyes.

“Do you think there’s a heaven?” Patrickson asked. “Do you think that after the last time we make something new in the world, take action, have volition, there’s anything afterwards?”

And I could not answer, because how could there be a heaven in a world like this? In a world where Patrickson existed, could be made, shaped, was there a heaven still?

Even worse, did it grant passage to monsters like him?

He clutched his heart and blood trickled through his grasping fingers. He laughed. The edge of his form fuzzed.

Petals dropped like falling fingernails from his blooms. Withered before they touched the floor.

“Do you think there’s a place left where I can see my son again? Do I go proudly, knowing I did what I could? Or should I be ashamed? What even happens to idea when they’re slain?”

I looked over my shoulder, because we were moving in opposite directions in that void between voids, and I could hear someone gently calling my name.

“Something replaces them,” I decided. “After ideas die, something replaces them. A thousand concepts have been created and forgotten after they’ve lost relevancy.”

He tilted his head down, and the petals kept falling into ashes. “Am I to be replaced then? A tyrant for a tyrant?”

I clenched both my hands. Felt the tugging pain in my left again.

Looked up. There was almost nothing left. Just wounds where the plants had grown over.

“I won’t let that happen.”

The corners of his lips tugged slowly up. Skin rotted. Grew grey.

His eyes flashed with one last trace of smugness.

“Who has a choice in what they become?”

And in that queer place between places, where the seconds had stopped on the great clock of time, I thought I saw a wound where he had been. A great throbbing mass of red that penetrated the heart of the cosmos. Where he had been there was no corpse, only pain, lingering pain.

And I thought it smiled at me.

——-

Epilogue.

“We interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news from your hometown heroes over at WKRG!” Specs ruffled papers. She’d seen better days, a few new scars lanced across her face like lines of electrical current, and her eyes were hidden behind thick coke bottle goggles.

“The president has emerged from his bunker in order to give a speech. We go now live for this occasion.”

The man stood in front of a podium, though few civilians were in attendance. Hundreds of soldiers moved about, while thousands stood at attention below the clipped microphone.

He’d gone in 50, and had emerged looking 60 and some spare change. What little color that had been left in his hair had left.

“My fellow Americans. We have been hurt.” The president stared into the camera with uncanny precision.

“We have been maligned. We have been humiliated, spat upon, and knocked to the ground.” The camera zoomed in on his eyes. “There are those of you who thought we might not even make it through to see the dawn. To stand back up on our own feet.”

“I’m sorry to say that in my darkest moments, I feared that as well. No more, however. After a year of darkness, and a year of poor communication, I am pleased to announce that the Crisis is over. The communications blackout is being lifted as we speak. My dearest apologies, my fellow Americans, for pulling down the curtain upon this our mighty nation. Shortly after the attacks started, I received word from Mr. Jeffreys that our networks were compromised. Quite simply put, many of our greatest heroes… many of our greatest secrets, were at risk of being taken, killed, or worse,” The president said. “I know that to those who lost family members due to the struggle that is a fool’s excuse, but it prevented this mighty nation from falling totally and completely.”

A pause as the military milled about behind him. Several Association heroes were in their ranks, standing at attention. The camera flicked over them. Most wore pure white uniforms with no ornamentation.

“We have broken, completely, and totally, 3 of the 6 armies that assaulted us in this last year. Two of them have been shattered and have fled into the darkness that remains in areas of our country, and one is quarantined, securely and safely behind the greatest walls we can muster. We are freed from invaders, America.” He smiled, and showed off his teeth like a wild dog.

“We are freed. It is with great pleasure that I announce an end to the Crisis. Our armed forces are en route, called back to bring order back to the heartland. We will send the enemies of this mighty collection of states back to the hell they came from, America, and they will be sent there in pieces.”

“To those who feel we have abandoned you, to those who help did not come soon enough, we do not judge what precautions you took. What desperate alliances you conjured forth. It is the American spirit at work that in the absence of any other methods, we innovate in order to rise to the occasion. When the armies of Uncle Sam arrive to liberate you, we will welcome you back with open arms. Remember the family you have left behind, yon wayward citizens, and know that this mighty nation will never be split as it was again.”

The president looked at the camera for a solid ten seconds before nodding once and gesturing. “We could not have done this, of course, without the Association. Mr. Jeffreys, if you would? I hear you have an announcement.”

“With the Crisis over, we enter a new stage of this horrible time in our history,” Jeffrey said, mounting the stage. His hair was dyed yellow and dripped across his shoulders and his suit. “We move into reclamation of territories. This is why I am so pleased to introduce the next generation in our Powered Forces, who many of you will become reacquainted with as they move into the afflicted locations.” He smiled into the camera, simultaneously natural and artificial.

“My beloved citizens, let me introduce to you the Angels!” He gestured and the camera panned down into the audience. The heroes in white stood at attention, looking straight ahead. Perfect. No scars on their skin, no blemishes, a sea of humans looking for all the world like they stepped out of the pages of a comic book. 

“Smile,” Jeffrey said, beaming.

The heroes smiled. They were calm, placid beasts.

“It took a lot of work, but with the sword of damocles above our heads, it was do or die,” Jeffrey laughed. “But we have successfully picked out those who do the best in affected areas. If you see one of my Angels near you, oh wonderful people of this nation, do not interfere in their missions. Your local Association heroes will be collaborating with them in this task. Memorize these people, for they will be the light in the dark times that are still to come. After all, we have states to reclaim, and people to rehome!”

“America is coming for you,” Jeffrey said. “Make sure you answer the door.”

——

“In more local news,” Specs said after far too long of being quiet. “If you’re a fan of the Cuban Patrol, good news! If you’re not, bad news. Negotiations have once again broken down between the much beleaguered Gulf Coast branch of the Association out of Atlanta and the Cuban Patrol forces occupying Mobile, so look forward to being occupied for a few more months! This is broadcast number 4 of local hero news, so I’m glad to be here reporting!”

“It’s been four months since the battle for Montgomery, and we have spent the entire time under Cuban Patrol rule, which hasn’t been bad since they’ve kept us well supplied with food and medicine. Rutherford was recorded saying this in an exclusive interview;”

The feed split over to a Cuban Patrol symbol. The wide sweeping C intersected with the swish of the distinctive bullpup assault rifle their forces favored.

Commander Rutherford’s voice buzzed through.

“We did not come here as conquerors,” Rutherford said. “We came here to right the wrongs we inflicted upon this country. The seizure of Gulf Coast territories was tertiary to our missions. We are fully willing to give these territories back, so long as they still want it, and so long as the Association can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are capable of keeping the supplies and protections flowing through this area. We did not invest considerable casualties and capital and manpower into securing this area for it to come undone.”

A pause in the speech.

“Our bargain with New Orleans, however, still holds. We are deployed as security forces for the Mardi Gras republic. We do not claim possession of that territory, though our bunkers and barracks have been moved into place in maintenance of their declaration of freedom.” Rutherford sighed.

“We are here to ensure that the stability of the American Empire is not affected unduly by the changes that have been wracked upon it. In the interests of our home countries to the south, and in the interest of the world, the American states will not be allowed to collapse in the same way Brazil has,” Rutherford declared, sharply. “Even if that means infringing upon the American government’s declarations of safety.”

“What of reports that you refused the first ambassador sent?”

“They were rude to the memory of Gale,” Rutherford said, simply. “They clearly hadn’t done a read of the room.” He laughed.

—–

“All in all, the battle of Montgomery has been the single greatest source of casualties inflicted upon Mobile in history,” Spec reported. “Hundreds are still missing in action in the chaos of the invasion, Cuban Patrol and Mobile citizens alike. Among the missing are the majority of Gale’s personal squad. Hands, a mobile native is MIA. Excelsior, an A-rank hero that slew many monsters, is MIA. Gale remains MIA. Boreas, an Association hero, remains MIA. Osteor remains MIA. For a full list of the fallen, and those who are still missing, come down by the station and we will help you. We now go to a local church!”

“Ah!” the pastor said. “Sorry, you startled me, how do I- ah, I see. Well, we’ve decided to partner up with the Cuban Patrol to raise funds for local monuments. The Mads Memorial fund caters to those families who find themselves missing loved ones, or whose homes were destroyed in evacuation and quarantine efforts. Swing on by with your donations whenever you want, we’re still hosting 24/7 services, both Fourth Wave and Catholic. In this time, there is no reason to let divisions in belief stop us, after all.”

“And the shrine to Gale is open for the public. With the donations given to us, it now encompasses an entire room. For those Gale fans out there, there is word coming from Chicago that Gale is in the running for a full sainthood.”

“Gale is MIA, does that affect the decision?”

“Gale will return,” The pastor declared. “There’s no doubt in any of our minds that they survived that blast.”

“They why have they not returned yet?” Specs asked.

“It’s not the right time for the Angels of our faith to arrive,” the pastor said. “But when they do, Gale will be among their number, and they will stomp out the evil that threatens to consume this world.”

“Is that so?”

“All donations given to the Gale Shrine go to Charity. Good day.”

——

“In World news, despite complaints by the US government, an entire battalion of russian Red Fox units are still deployed in California as a result of the turbulence over the rites of succession in Russia. As you may be aware, in the spree of strange deaths associated with assisted living facilities and breathing aparati and pacemakers, the vice president of Russia was found dead. Sadly, last week, the President was injured in  a tragic hunting accident, leaving him in a coma. Doctors report it may be some time before he awakes. Valistre, the Secretary of Defence, of course, is next in line, and has taken over as acting ruler of Russia while they wait for the president to recover.

Valistre, as you may be aware, has long been associated with the russian Dead Hand program, wherein government psionics suppress crime using precognitive matrices. Here’s hoping that she doesn’t import any of that over here!”

Specs laughed nervously. “China is requesting information on the Shattered Empire’s status. As you may know, the Shattered Empire launched an attack on US soil a year ago next week, and were soundly defeated during the Kentucky Slaughter that left the entire state uninhabitable. China voices claims that many chinese criminals are now in US custody, and demands they be returned to face Chinese justice.”

“Britain is seeking reparations over the death of three planes full of troops being sent to reinforce the east coast; according to black box information they failed to share with US authorities, the US airforce was involved.. The President has declined to respond.”

“Canada has begun pulling troops away from the border states, citing a belief in America’s right to govern itself. Notably, they have refused to release casualty reports in the last three months.”

“Hungary is once more seeking to secede from the European Union, following an internal investigation implicating the Eastern European Unusuals in the death of their late leader.”

“The United States President has refused to respond to rising allegations that thousands of civilian casualties were inflicted by United States Armed forces in the Gulf Coast Area, and are similarly denying similar claims in the wreckage of Washington, Texas, and the ruins of Wyoming.”

“The Hurricane Family, in a historical move, has decided to disobey from conscript laws and hide the newest addition from Association schools, one report says, in a display of brinkmanship brought on by lingering accusations that Hurricane died due to lack of support holding the gulf.”

“This has been The Specs Report. Good evening Gulf Coast.”

“If you enjoyed this news cast, please consider supporting us on Patreon, or donating directly through our website or in person! Thank you! And now, the weather with Chief meteorologist Alan Seals!”

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