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[Fiction] Brave Little Indian

Warren Verona

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I have no idea when this takes place.

Black clouds rolled overhead shrouding the last few glints of sunlight that were left in the late evening. Twenty-miler per hour winds rustled the treetops and blew lose foliage across the grounds of Lancaster Cemetery. The once awe inspiring and beautiful grounds decorated in old mausoleums, gargoyles, and decorative head stones now lay cracked, broken, and forgotten by man.

Death’s cloak billowed behind him snapping restlessly in the form of a long duster gripped tightly in the gale of the on coming storm. Effortlessly he perched on a headstone balancing on the pads of his feet. It seemed like nature bent to his presence, the longer he sat there the more torrential the winds became and the earth near the headstone gave into his grim aura withering and dying on all sides.

Here he was at his most powerful. The quantum energies that gathered near places of death always felt more ‘pure’ to the nova called ‘The Revenant’. Easy it was for him to twist the base forces of the universe when he felt a sympathetic resonance, in this case, a place of entropy and death.

The area sat aglow in a purplish haze of energy. The purplish anima surrounding him sporadically discharged black lightning shrouding in evil as it silently danced in the darkening shadowed land. Tendrils of energy also marred with the same colors and crackling lightning, whipped chaotically passing harmlessly through the neighboring stones that marked those long passed. Occasionally they unconsciously gripped and wrapped themselves around whatever happened to cross their path.

Neil Preston was late, but that was okay. Death was nothing, if not patient.
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‘Why am I doing this again?’ Neil thought, not for the first time tonight, as he tramped up to the cemetery’s gateway. His reasons were jumbled, but one thing hung out with more clarity.

Neil pushed the confusion from his mind and brought it back to his surroundings. He was about to meet one of the most dangerous beings on the face of the planet. This was somebody who revealed in the ending of life and the despair that surrounded it. Neil didn’t believe Revenant was some deluded Death-wannabe. No, Revenant was something that had accepted and even reveled in killing, the diminishing of hope, and promoted the futility of life. Revenant was in many ways Neil’s dark reflection, but that really wasn’t true either. There was no symmetry between the two. They were two novas, but that was the only real link they shared. To think otherwise was foolish.

The gate was open as Neil approached. The cold wind whipped around him, a chilling reminder he was far from his Rio de Janeiro home; far from the sun and … and whatever else made his house something more. The heavy iron of the gate creaked as Neil stepped inside, caught up in the brittle gust coming off the distant Lake Michigan. Only one beacon of ‘life’ emanated from within the cemetery. Even the trees seemed to have had the very life leeched out of them in this forgotten place. The winter air sustained so little life as to appear eerily clean to Neil’s ‘life sense’. Even the beacon held more foreboding than welcome to it. It was strong without being healthy; powerful, but baleful, and as Neil drew closer, infused with dark entropy.

For a millisecond, Neil considered turning around and leaving. It wasn’t fear, but more of a deep instinct of self-preservation. That emotional void drove him on. Long dead grass crunched beneath his feet as Neil moved around the decaying, neglected graves. A quick glance around him was less than rewarding. Too many of these tombstones were defaced, worn, and ancient. No one came here anymore. Even the memories of this place were spectral and midnight pale … so long removed from the thoughts of those who might have once cared.

‘Turn around’ his instincts tugged then the voice said,

“You’re late.”

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…the resonant voice of the self proclaimed ‘Angel of Death’ rose up from behind Neil. His approach was never heard, his presence wasn’t felt until he spoke yet there he stood perched precariously atop an ancient grave marker that Neil had walked passed just seconds ago. It left Neil to wonder if Revenant had been stalking him since he first entered the gates.

“Come to reclaim your sisters’ honor?” He chuckled smugly in the darkened shadows of his perch; the shrill sound of his past victims, souls he has claimed as his by right of victory, echoed each of his spoken words. Only the soft eerie glow of his topaz eyes permitted Neil a guess of where he should direct any of his retorts. “Out of respect for your woman I gave her the opportunity to talk you out of this, I see she has failed to do so.”

The dead grass gave way to Revenant’s weight as he hopped from his vantage point. He noted the slight bit of fear in Neil’s stance. The sort of stance that tells a fighter that his opponent he’s still not sure how he is going to handle his opposition. Revenant took a few steps forward and the wind threw his duster around like the billowing cloak of a long forgotten hell spawned comic anti-hero.

Without warning Revenant reached into his coat and Neil could see the glint of chrome that marked Death’s preferred tools of engagement. Twin handguns capable of rending through the armor of some of the toughest novas; there was no telling what it would do to him. A gun was never drawn, and Neil was not blown clean into his second eruption. Instead Revenant offered with an outstretched arm an amber beverage. “I owe her a lot. Killin’ her boy toy would prolly piss her off, of that I’m certain.” He nudged the head of the beer a bit signaling tat it was okay for Neil to take it. “I’m offering you the one thing I’ve never granted any opponent: A chance. A chance to escape Death, and walk out of here. I’ve owed you a beer for quite some time, and it looks like it might just save your life.”

The undead nova lowered his arm with fluid grace, as Neil grasped the bottle. He turned slowly and walked back to the large headstone he was perched atop just moments before. His long unkempt hair blew wildly and for a moment it seemed like he had only stopped to respect the passing of nature’s breath. Deflty he arched his shoulders and his duster fell off his back, it folded itself tightly into a military pressed square. Next to go were his side arms, they fell of just as quickly and he set them neatly with his coat.

“Sparing your life, twice, makes Blinky and I even, I consider my debt to her paid by the simple fact that you’re still breathing, and last I checked, I owe you nothing.” He turned to face Neil. Steel toed work boots, well worn leather pants, and his trademark demon head belt buckle were all he wore. Apparently, Revenant was planning destroying Neil like a civilized man: with his bare hands. “You have until you finish that beer to change your mind.”

Several paces away the two novas stood with nothing between them but space, and opportunity.


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Meghan "Mithril" Cutter followed the sound of heavy thumping and crashing down the stairs of the Rio de Janeiro mansion she shared with Nova "Flicker" Madigan and Neil Preston. In the finished basement she found Nova there, turning a storage chest inside-out, scattering various bits of military-looking gear around her on the floor.

"Uh, help you find something?" Meghan asked, stopping on the bottom stair.

Nova fished a black flak jacket from the bottom of the chest and turned to face Meghan, straightening as she did so.

"Found it, thanks," Nova replied, indicating the dusty and heavy armored vest. She rapped on the ceramic composite trauma plate in its center, producing a solid and dull thunk thunk sound. Nova hefted the jacket over her shoulder. It looked incongrous there. The jacket's practical and serious appearance clashed with the tee-shirt, jeans, and sneakers which Nova wore.

"Do I want to know?" Meghan asked, peering dubiously at the pile of discarded material at Nova's feet: a folding shovel, straps of web gear, filthy boots, and other equipment that Nova used while she was away saving lives in desolate hellholes. Nova was only interested in the armor today, Meghan noticed, nothing else.

"Probably not, but I'll tell you anyway," Nova explained as she shrugged into the heavy cordura-covered body armor. "Neil got himself into a dick-measuring contest with Warren--Revenant--over the virtue of his blood sister-in-law Ptesan-Wi. Ptesan-Wi's been saying crazy shit on the OpNet, and Warren called her out on it. Now Neil's trying to get his fool head taken off."

Meghan clenched her eyes shut in frustration. "Oh, for Chrissakes," she said.

"Yeah, I know," Nova said shortly, gesturing sharply with her hand, unable to relax. "Word is, Warren's got some kind of God Gun that packs a punch worse than that rifle that CoMA used when they almost splattered us."

"That vest won't even slow it down, Nova" Meghan said quietly. She sighed, solely for the emotional effect as she no longer breathed. "I don't believe I'm saying this: I'll go with you."

Nova looked up sharply at Meghan from where she'd been fiddling with the closure on the vest. "Meghan. Why?"

"I love you, remember?" Meghan said quietly, leaning on the banister to steady her nerves. "That means I go with you and protect you, even when you're trying to get yourself killed on behalf of your pinhead fiance."

At a loss for words, Nova nodded once. Meghan stepped off the stairs and extended her hand to Nova.

"Where's the fight, anyway?" she asked.

"Lancaster Cemetery," Nova replied, holding still so that Meghan could shapeshift around her, forming a second metallic skin of her own body. "Go under the flak jacket, not over it. I want you behind it too."

I love Neil so I am going into harm's way for him, and Meghan loves me so she's going into harm's way for me, Nova thought. Who goes into harm's way for Meghan? Nobody.

"How did you end up so brave?" Nova asked softly. "You're just a kid."

"Hey, immortal, remember?" Meghan said, feigning bravado. Her voice came from a nonspecific point on her body as she cocooned Nova. "Besides, I really got under Revenant's skin back at the Pow-Wow. I don't think he'll shoot at me."

"I hope," she added quietly and nervously.

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Neil had wondered if he would sweat when he met Revenant and was a bit surprised that he wasn’t. He let his mind’s eye take in the Angel of Death as he was addressed. Without the guns, his power was still soul-numbing. Without the duster his panoply was still far beyond Neil’s capacity. He took the beer when offered and listened to Revenant talk, trying hard to not let his mind wander down the painful doors that Revenant was inadvertently kicking down.

Revenant could tell that something he said hurt the younger nova, but wasn’t sure why. Hell, he hadn’t even tried to work his way under the … well, scared wasn’t the word for it, because oddly enough the healer didn’t seem to have the sense to be afraid. Still, he knew he had scored a psychic wound and that gave him an even greater, most likely unnecessary, edge.

Neil looked down at the beer and gathered his thoughts. When ready, he looked back up into Revenant’s topaz eyes and began talking.

“I’m not here to suck up any of Nova’s good fortune, you bitter …” Neil couldn’t find the name that best matched his feelings.

“She broke up with me a few weeks ago. She’s done with me and that’s that. If I’m still breathing, it’s because you’ve made an assumption. Sorry to disappoint and delay your beat-down.”

“As for Ptsen-Wi, no matter how upset she is right now, that doesn’t give you the right to say the things you said, the way you said them, to her. She is a woman … a brave young lady, and a better friend. If you had someone you really cared about, maybe you would understand were I’m coming from. She is not only my sister-in-law, but she midwifed my daughter into this world. To talk about her the way you did was beyond the pale.”

Revenant calmly waited for Neil to do something with the beer … besides blather.

“I came for an apology – for her.”

The breeze picked up and tossed Neil’s hair.

“Hell, I also came because I thought I would be afraid of you,” Neil continued with a deep edge of disappointment. “I thought I might be facing something I’ve never faced before in some manner, or form. I thought that being afraid would make me feel alive again.”

Neil looked past the Death-nova.

“Problem is, you can’t do that for me. I have to do that for myself.”

Looking back into those eyes, “Of course that realization doesn’t do either of us much good.”

Neil was in awe of how calm he felt. He was sure he was about to be beaten, if not killed, but it didn’t bother him. He’d miss things, like Nova’s smile and Winter’s eyes as she followed him around the room, but somehow it wasn’t enough.

Neil took a step away from Revenant and put the beer down on a less decrepit tombstone.

“Well, let’s get down to it then. I want that apology. Consider the beer done.”

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What the fuck is wrong me? I’m turning into a pussy. This guy should be dead by now! No, if I crush him, Blinx’ll never speak to me again. Which means Mithril will never speak to me again, His mind snapped at the sudden epiphany. Okay… some good could come from this… but I like Blinky… she’s sweet. Neil continued to speak as Revenant stared him down letting him deliver his monologue. Revenant liked monologues. Sweet? Ugh… okay… what if he hit me first, I kick the crap out of him… then shout ‘He started it.’ Apologize profusely to Sistah Strobe, and invite her out for Chinese to help smooth things over. I’m a genius.

“Two weeks eh?” A grin caught Neil’s attention through the shadows. “Good to know she’s back on the market.” He raised a finger to make a point. “But, you know what I’ve always liked about Blinx? She never seemed like she was a hard girl to please. Hell, she’s so ‘apple pie’ that even a fuck up like me could keep her happy. Seriously, all a guy needs to do is… what?” He started counting off on his fingers. “Make her laugh, let her know she’s appreciated, be there for her, and keep her sexed up enough that the only reason she can still walk is by virtue of her being a nova.” Neil’s expression shifted slightly, the death nova had found his cord and struck it with a megaton punch. Bingo. Revenant nodded his head in a mocking, and almost comedic way as if to agree with himself. “Yeah, I could do that. No doubt. Over and over on that last part.”


“So what was it Baby Jesus? Huh?” He threw his hands out wide. “What part did you fuck up at? Help a brother out. Making her laugh? Naw, yer a fuckin joke to begin with, I’m sure you had her in stitches.” There was a deep-seated evil in his glare that surpassed the stares given in the darkest pits of Hell. “Wait… I suppose it’s awfully hard to appreciate the girl when yer not around. Always off saving the world! For who Neil? Huh? ‘Them’?” Revenant clenched his fists. “You’re so damn selfish. I thought I was bad… but woah-ho-ho buddy, you got me beat by a long shot. Little Baby Jesus… so wrapped up in saving the lives of the world that he couldn’t even notice his own crumbling down around him, only to find that when he added two and six together the flame had…” He grinned at his wit and offered an insulting half bow to help drive it home. “Flickered out.”

Something clicked into place as he bowed. Most people called it common sense, but Revenant having little to no experience in such a complex field accepted it as something closely akin to an annoying moment of pussification. Wait a sec. If I stomp a mud hole in his ass, he’s Neil fuckin’ Preston… the whole nova community is swinging from his jock. He’s an all around nice guy and well loved… and I’m… well… not. Fucker is setting me up to take a fall. Don’t kill him… yet.

He was on the move now, walking between the headstones, circling Neil kept eye contact not allowing Revenant to flank or get behind him. “So here you are, hoping to find some greater truth in your life by battling me? What? You hope that if I kick the living shit out of you enough she’ll feel sorry for you and come running back?” Revenant was yelling now, the shrieks and wails that filled the air as he spoke were nearly deafening. As if the entire cemetery was against Neil as well. He felt like he was being used, and Revenant didn’t like it one bit. “Demonize the bad boy! Right? You goad me into kickin’ yer ass, people know the kinda guy I am, it’s not like they’ll believe me when I say you deserved it. Not a bad plan. You’ll be a martyr, you stood up for Ptesan-Wi, and I broke in ways that just can’t be described for doing the noble thing."

He had come full circle to where he began, he was livid, and nearly at the brink of sliding off into a rampage. For the third time Flicker had saved Neil's life. What counts is in your heart and what you do. he recalled her words in vivid clarity. Then Revenant did the one thing he never thought he would ever do. Warren Verona made the right choice, for once. “Fuck this. I’m no ones fall guy. I’m sorry Blinx dumped you, but if you had been takin’ care of business, you’d still be in business.” He folded his arms across his chest. “ And you still don’t seem get it. You could be with her right now trying to fix what’s broken. You see Neil, when we're incomplete; we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment.” He shook his head in sympathy for Neil. “Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure of every relationship we enter.”

“Go home Neil. I can't help you, and Ptesan-Wi doesn't need a hero.”

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… not hard to please …

To let her know that she’s appreciated …

Why couldn’t you do that?

Revenant’s words clawed at him, tearing the back of his heart out. Part of Neil’s brain short circuited and his fists balled up until his fingernails were biting into his palms. That primal, knee-jerk reaction to lash out at the thing causing you pain. His throat felt parched. Neil’s eyes followed the Gaunt Man as he circled.

“Baby Jesus …”

‘Who does he think he is, the bastard?’

“Making her laugh … saving the world … selfish …”

Neil’s mind seized up and then gifted him with a cool clarity of memory. A tumult of memories, touches, tastes, smells and sensations cascaded over his thinking mind. Revenant’ barbs did their work and then some. Neil’s perceptions danced over the man, the nova, and the words.

“… greater truth …”

“… a partner can add sweet dimensions …” and Neil understood. He not only understood his incompleteness and the crap-tastic job he had been doing balancing the blame in all the wrong quarters, he understood the truth of the words themselves.

‘I am in the wrong place,’ Neil thought. ‘If she really means that much to me I need the courage to face her … and tell her.’

Then the meaning behind the words came through.

“Go home Neil. I can't help you, and Ptesan-Wi doesn't need a hero.”

“Who is she?”

This wasn’t what Revenant expected to hear.

“I know my killers, Revenant. Not the people who’ve killed but those who’ve made their peace with the people they’ve ended. People like you, who speak with the hollow whispers of the damned and pull the dead along in your shadow.”

Neil tilted his head.

“Somebody’s gotten to you.”

Neil sat back against the vandalized, cracked and decrepit headstone. All the hostility had slipped out of his stance. Neil had let the bitter cup of violence pass untouched. Compassion settled back into his heart and its light shone from his eyes.

“You’re right. I need to be talking to Nova, but you’ve done something very important for me just now. You’ve shown me more integrity and courage than I deserved, and I am grateful. I get the feeling you don’t get to talk to many people about who you really are and how you really feel. This much I can do for you, if you want?”

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