In the barren, hostile wastelands the presence of an oasis attracted a lot of attention, no matter how out of the way it was. Scavengers, sweepers, excavators… everyone fought for territory and water. They didn’t only have to battle their environment, but each other as well.
Back in the day the oasis was a place of chaos. There was no set leadership, not until Hydra emerged as a force strong enough to exert his influence.
He didn’t have a lot of clout in the beginning, not until the mysterious stranger arrived. He agreed to act as a benefactor, and to accept Hydra as an autonomous hireling. The stranger would help him conquer the oasis, and in exchange half of its spoils and products would be shared.
Hydra had found it difficult to protect himself in the harsh environment of the oasis. What would it serve him to compete against this mysterious stranger? He’d been so without hope at the time he hardly thought about the deal before accepting.
The wasteland visitor proved to be powerful. He gave Hydra advanced weapons and support from many experienced mutant fighters. In a snap Hydra’s influence expanded throughout the oasis and Greenland Outpost was born.
Hydra emerged as its ruler. And what of his promise?
Every month the mysterious guest would appear in the outpost, and every month he would leave with half of their food and purified water. Hydra was a puppet, lording over the outpost in name alone in service to this dark figure. Sometimes it was painfully clear the stranger had a louder voice in the oasis than he did.
This enigmatic wastelander was undoubtedly the ‘demon’. Hydra had been cultivated to lead at his whim, guiding the Greenland Outpost as an important fount of power and resources.
Hydra wasn’t interested in any bullshit ideals – he was only ever interested in wealth, power, and women. After years of enduring the humiliation of servitude, he was finding it difficult to suffer any more of it.
Everything here – the women, the weapons, the food, water – everything is mine! Who the fuck does that guy think he is? What right does he have to order me around? I am master of this outpost, and only I can rule it! These agreements are pointless games.
In the Wastelands, power was the only voice that mattered. For years Hydra cultivated his supremacy and he was ready to stretch his wings. The seed of revolt had grown within him.
It was time for all of them to fuck off! Greenland Outpost didn’t need anyone, and anyone who dared encroach on his territory was dead!
Even if he’d never met the demonhunters Hydra was planning to make his move within the next six months. When Cloudhawk and this Bloodsoaked Queen were hunted down Hydra was sure they could be useful to his plans. That was why he’d let them go.
Of course, Cloudhawk didn’t have any of this inside information. There was only one thing he was sure of, and it was that these two men were bad news.
Hydra was ruthless and unprincipled, a person who killed without conscience and wantonly traded in human lives. His hands were covered in blood, and to him the lives of others meant nothing. Leonine wasn’t much better. He’d tricked scores of innocent people into coming to the outpost and sold them into a life of unthinkable torment. He turned people into commodities and playthings.
Yet in these wretched wastelands, how could one determine where was good and where was bad?
If one took the traditional view then Mad Dog, Slyfox and Hydra were all scoundrels. Not one of them was worth pity or mercy. However, Mad Dog and Slyfox had saved Cloudhawk’s life more than once. To him that made the two slain mercenaries good men.
The measure of a person in the Wastelands wasn’t their morality or their public image. Whether they were good or bad was determined in the hearts of those they met. A man was good to those who he did good to – he was a villain to those he hurt.
For now Cloudhawk needed Hydra’s protection, and the Bloodsoaked Queen needed his medicines.
Mantis had acquired the medicine they needed to treat the Queen at Cloudhawk’s demand. Still he made sure to emphasize his earlier warning. “Her injuries are more than what typical medicine can heal in a short time. I need a dose of panacea.”
Hydra scowled. Panacea was a very special type of restorative medicine. They had to be purchased through special channels at great expense, and not for no reason. Panaceas were created through the use of superb techniques and high technology, distilling reagents extracted from mutated plants and animals to create a serum. This ancient scientific technology was all but gone from the world now, making panacea as precious as it was rare.
The thought of what it would cost was a painful one, but Hydra knew it paled in comparison to what he would earn if they helped him take control of the outpost.
A syringe nestled safely within a box was handed over. The liquid within was completely clear, like water.
What precisely was in the panacea was unclear, only that it was some substance taken from mutated biology. Injecting it into a patient stirred their own restorative abilities. Almost right away healing increased seven or eight times its normal rate.
The Bloodsoaked Queen already surpassed the capabilities of a normal person, and with the help of this injection her life was no longer in danger. After a few days she would be mostly healed, especially with the help of such a masterful wasteland healer like Mantis. He used natural remedies extracted from mutated plants to help recover faster.
Hydra watched the Queen undergo treatment. “When are more demonhunters coming?”
He’d never been to the elysian lands, but the demonhunters wouldn’t send just one of their number to stalk a fiend. Demons were typically extremely powerful, and often surrounded themselves with mighty followers. It required a team of hunters and a well-thought strategy to succeed.
“There are no other demonhunters.”
“What are you saying?” Hydra’s face twisted into a scowl.
How phenomenally stupid did this girl have to be to make a decision like this? She came by herself to the wastelands, hoping to kill a demon? How was this different from suicide? She could be twice as strong and it would still be moronic to think she could face the demon and all his power throughout the wastelands by herself!
Cloudhawk stood and answered for her. “When the Queen is fully healed those three mutants the demon sent after us won’t be a problem. What more help do we need?”
Hydra couldn’t dispute this.
The Bloodsoaked Queen’s combat prowess was impressive. Hydra himself was about as strong as one of the demons’ lieutenants and he hadn’t been able to withstand her attacks. It spoke volumes as to how strong she really was.
An entire squad of demonhunters would have better chances, true, but it was important to remember that they didn't view the wastelanders as fellow humans. After they annihilated the sweepers, they could easily level the entire Greenland Outpost as well. It wasn't as though something like this had never happened before!
If there was only one, so be it. As for Cloudhawk? Hydra didn’t take him into consideration at all.
Hydra retorted. “To avoid unnecessary trouble you’ll stay here for a few days. I’ll arrange something for you.”
“Sir… hey boss.” One of the men dressed as a doctor hastily approached. “The girl’s condition is too severe. We don’t have any way to save her!”
Leonine heard the diagnosis and shouted at the man angrily. “What?! Say it again!”
These men were the best doctors the outpost could provide. If they said they couldn’t save his daughter, it was practically a death sentence.
However, Mantis had just finished treating the Bloodsoaked Queen. “Allow me to try.”
He saw a little girl lying in her bed, skin thin as paper outlining the bones beneath. A large fleshy growth was affixed to the left side of her neck – a tumor that was threatening the poor child’s life. Only… the dangers of cutting it out were just as lethal, and the difficulty of such a procedure was beyond the scope of the outpost’s doctors.
“A minor matter.” Mantis uttered the diagnosis after taking a glance in her mouth. He turned around and slapped one of the physicians upside the head before washing his hands and the instruments with a disinfectant. “You can assist me.”
The doctors were immediately and visibly embarrassed.
Mantis didn’t care about how they felt, he was already working. First he cleaned the flesh around the tumor with the same solution, then began to cut.
Cloudhawk, looking on, couldn’t help but admire Mantis. Not only was he an assassin that frightened enemies to the bone, he was also a stupendous surgeon. It was like his eyes could see through flesh and knew implicitly where healthy and diseased tissue lay. Every incision was precise to the tenth of a millimeter – as exact as a machine. He never made a mistake.
Soon every trace of cancer or mutated skin was removed.
He applied the antiseptic solution to her wound then cleaned his hands as though he’d done some trivial thing. “She’ll be fine as long as it doesn’t get infected.”
“Thank you!” Leonine, his voice shaking, fell to his knees before Mantis. “Thank you!”
Hydra was secretly shocked by what he had just seen. Mantis was clearly a master pharmacologist and had created the antiseptic solution using only mutated ingredients from plants and animals. In addition, Mantis was an excellent surgeon. Every slice from his scalpel was meticulous, perfect to the millimeter.
He had to be a very high level agility metahuman.
Mantis’ frontal combat abilities were likely less developed than Leonine’s, but when he entered under the cover of night he could kill three Leonines. Assassins weren’t always the strongest, but they were undoubtedly among the most dangerous.
Cloudhawk was arranged a room nearby where he went to rest. It was a room about twenty meters squared with few in the way of luxuries. However it was clean and tidy with a bed and sheets. It was the nicest treatment he’d ever been shown.
He found a place to hang up his cloak and took off his tattered wolf fur. Wounds peppered his emaciated and unimpressive body, twenty or thirty of them. There wasn’t a part of him that hadn’t somehow gotten injured. Some were still leaking reddish-purple blood.
It was hard to imagine how a waif like him could have endured so much punishment!
He’d been fleeing for days, a fugitive fighting for his life. When did he have time to worry about how he felt? Now all of a sudden it was hard for him to calm down as the pain and exhaustion washed over him. It was almost unbearable and it took all his will to stumble over to the bed. He climbed up, and fainted.
Fatigue… such absolute fatigue! And pain, gut-wrenching pain.
Cloudhawk felt like a whole mountain was crushing him. A thousand saws cut him apart and a hundred drills tore into his bones. He hardly wished to live.
This torture persisted for a while until it eventually eased, only to be replaced with the feeling of being burned alive. Drills and saws turned into a hundred thousand flickering fires dancing along his flesh. Every muscle, every fiber felt seared.
What the hell was going on!
Cloudhawk’s body began to undergo a series of positive changes. Although it was agony, every cell in his body felt invigorated, more alive.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Here's the fourth chapter. We're back on track, guys!