Sons of the Damned, Chapter 21: Hobopunk Goes to Church

Somewhere in an unnamed patch of forgotten desert a man walks through the glaring sun. He’s not dressed for the weather. His tattered coat looks far too thick for the sweltering heat, and the skin on his face is starting to peel. But his hair…that’s the thing you notice right off. It’s spiked out in all different directions. His overall aspect falls into a strange grey area somewhere between ‘punk rocker’ and ‘hobo’.

Ahead of him a mountain looms, a cliff face climbing up from the sand filling half the sky. In the cliff face an opening like a mouth, wide and grinning. In the opening a man in a grey suit.

“You people astound me,” the hobopunk says, approaching the man in the suit. “So much imagination and so little sense. Secret desert hideout? Underground base? Do know how many people have one of those? Just rent a conference room or something. It’s be much less trouble.”

The man in grey bristles with indignation. “Your mocking will get you no favors. Our Broken Lord makes his home in the desolate places, in the forgotten corners of the earth. It is there that he lies in ruin. Why should we take on greater glory for ourselves?”

The spike haired man holds up his hands. “Easy there preacher. I’m not here to pick a theological fight. I just want back what’s mine.”

“Why should I trust you? You are a trickster and a schemer. Our prophecies have foretold it.”

“No arguments here, though I would be interested in knowing where those prophecies came from if you held me right down to it.”

“They were spoken by the Spirit of our Lord as he fell. All the faithful know this.”

“Right. Sure. Anyway, here’s why you’re going to do business with me: I’ve got something you want. Trust me as little as you like, but I got the proof right here.” He tosses something to the man in the suit who grabs at it and clutches it in a trembling hand, unable to tear his eyes away. “You…you are not worthy.”

“Sure. Right. Whatever. That’s a little token of good faith. A promise I’m not yanking your chain okay?”

“And in return you wish to have returned to you the man who we have taken?”

Hobopunk shrugs, and a strange glimmer dances in the corners of his eyes. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“To what end?”

The man with the spiked out hair throws back his head and laughs.

“You find this funny?”

“Hysterical honestly. You gonna go for it or what?”

“I must speak with the council of the elders.”

“Great. Well here’s my card. When you guys get your act together, give me a call here. Just ask for Karl.”

Karl turns and walks a few steps back into the desert, but then he looks back over his shoulder. “You people DO use phones right?”

“We will be in touch,” the man in the suit says.

Karl turns and starts walking again. “Yeah,” he says to himself. “Yeah you will.”

 

In theory, the Mole Rats are the best. They’ve all been recruited from the most elite fighting forces the world has to offer, equipped with weapons easily a decade beyond what even the most sophisticated regular military units might see. They’re tough, battle hardened, ready to face things that can and have made ordinary soldiers freeze in fear.

In theory.

The truth, as is often the case, is somewhat more complicated. Because being chosen for the Mole Rats isn’t like getting recruited for any other job. The requirements are strict, the process rigid and immovable. Without exception these are men who have faced down the worst the world has to offer. They’ve survived things other men could never imagine, seen things that should give them nightmares for the rest of their lives. The Foundation supplies them with customized psychotropic drugs to suppress these dreams, to scrub the worst of their memories, to keep them sane and lift them out of the insatiable pull of depression and despair. With the aide of these drugs the Mole Rats function like a well oiled machine.

In theory.

But some of them don’t take the drugs. The guys at the top try to make sure this kind of insubordination doesn’t happen, but these aren’t the kind of men to be bullied about by suits who have never seen their best friends cut down by enemy fire, or devoured by some insatiable hell beast. They take orders well enough when those orders suit their natures: to fight, to kill, to survive.

But for all of that they are broken. All of them, to a man, shattered souls, debris fields left in the wake of the worst possible storms of life.

Talos, knows this. Knows it better than anyone. He takes the pills, all of them. But in the night as he stands watch outside the camp he can hear the screams of the men waking from the terrors that come with sleep.

The amnesiacs fog the memories of his life before the Foundation almost completely. This isn’t standard. Some of the other guys he’s talked to just have a few years blotted out. He doesn’t know how they do it. Probably has something to do with one of those artifacts. He doesn’t ask questions.

But he does wonder. He does question what must have happened to the people he loved. Did he have a mother? A father? A wife?

He likes to think the answer was no. Of course he did have a mother and father biologically speaking, but he sees his past as a blank slate. He had grown up in an orphanage. A loner, and outsider. And somewhere along the line he had become a soldier and eventually wound up working for the Foundation.

It’s a good story. And like most good stories, it isn’t true. He knows this because if it were true there wouldn’t be any need to block out so many years of his life with the amnesiacs. He knows because once he did stop taking his meds, just for a little while, and the dreams…he still can’t remember them. But he does remember his squad-mates holding him down by the arms and legs, eight men all told fighting to keep his furiously thrashing form on the ground as he screamed and screamed and screamed.

So now he takes the meds. Because it’s better that way. Better not to remember. And the message written across his memories is one he’s seen before in block letters on Foundation documents: [DATA EXPUNGED]

Tonight though…tonight is almost peaceful. He’s wormed his way through caves and marched across the frozen tundra in search of the dangerous things the Foundation faced every day. But here in the forest where the trees reach up toward the stars like dark fingers he can almost imagine what it’s like to be happy.

The thing he’s guarding is strange to be sure, but certainly no more menacing than a hundred other monstrosities he’s seen in his life. A simple circle of darkness seeming to suck up the meager light of the stars and moon. If he had not seen it during the day he could believe it was a hole, a pit spanning a hundred feet, and going down…how far? All the way, Talos thinks. All the way to hell.

But of course there isn’t anything there. Just a circle of blackened forest floor. The eggheads say everything inside that perimeter is rotten, leaves composted into mush at a hundred times the natural rate. Talos has seen it happen. He stood at the edge of the circle and threw a stick in and the thing just…fell apart. In a minute there wasn’t anything left at all. Scuttlebutt was the eggheads tried it with a cat, but exactly what had happened to the cat was a matter of some debate.

A moaning sound reaches his ears, the wind rustling through the treetops, but all the same it makes him tighten his grip on the gun in his hand, just a little. He looks down the row toward the place where he knows Carter is standing. Sometimes there is a tiny glow in the darkness, the burning tip of a cigarette that Carter should really know better than to smoke on guard duty. But now there is only darkness.

Talos is overcome with a sudden urge to call out, to reassure himself that he is not alone out here. Of course he knows he is not alone. There are just under fifty men, sleeping in the camp behind. Any moment now he will hear on of them cry out, awakened from a dream of things that should not be real. But there is nothing. Silence. Except of course, for the sound of the wind moaning in the trees.

But something tickles at the back of Talos’s mind. He looks up. And the tops of the slender pine trees are still as if they were carved out of stone. There is no wind.

But the moaning goes on.

 

SCP FOUNDATION – Supplemental Document 582: The Church of the Broken God

 

The Church of the Broken God is a secretive religious organization, dedicated to belief in a deity known to them as “The Broken God” or “Our Shattered Lord.” Due to their secrecy and radical nature very little is known of the Church beyond that they believe it is their task to collect the various “fragments” of their god and reassemble them so that he might bring judgment upon the earth.

The origins of the Church are uncertain, but the organization came to the Foundation’s attention in 1958 when they mounted an attack on Foundation personnel in an attempt to retrieve what they apparently believed to be one of these fragments, known to the Foundation as SCP ███. The attack resulted in ██ casualties to Foundation personal as well as [DATA EXPUNGED].

Since then, the Church of the Broken has shown interest in a number of Foundation artifacts, particularly those with apparent link to unusually advanced Victorian Era technology. This has lead to speculation that the nature of the “broken god” is somehow mechanical in nature, although direct verification of any particular aspect of the Church’s doctrine has proved difficult.

It is still unknown how the church recruits their members or indeed if they recruit, leading some to speculate that members of the Church could be [REDACTED].

To this point, no member of the Church of the Broken God has allowed themselves to be taken alive, therefore if when hostile members of the Church are encountered it is standard policy to [REDACTED].

 

Vinny looks up from the screen. “You folks don’t screw around,” he says to Jenkins.

“We don’t have that luxury.”

“End justifies the means, eh?”

“When the ends are the continued existence of the human race…yeah.”

Vinny opens his mouth, then shuts it again.

“What?”

“Almost had a Godwin’s Law moment there,” he says.

“I don’t-”

“Ninteen Fifty-Eight huh? How long has this place been around?”

“The Foundation has been existence since 1604. Or 2007. The details are a bit fuzzy. Apparently time travel will have been involved.”

“Okay. So what I’m hearing is that you guys are the protectors of the world. And this Church of the Broken God outfit…they’re the bad guys or something?”

“I’m not sure I’d say they’re bad. I mean, they’re a cult that wants to reassemble a mechanical deity to bring about the end of the world, but most day’s we’ve got bigger fish to worry about frying.”

“Apparently some of them are actual fish.”

Jenkins smiles.

“And none of this…bothers you?”

“I don’t take your meaning.”

“The Church of the Broken God. Those demon things that Frog tangled with. The…Something that kinda sorta ate his finger. All of that? Apparently, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Yes.”

“The world is full of monstrosities and aberrations and…all kinds of stuff that would make the average person go crazy just from looking at it and you’re okay with that?”

“Well, obviously I wish it wasn’t that way, but-”

“No. No, I’m sorry, but that’s not going to gut it. You don’t get to shrug your shoulders and say, “They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.””

“I don’t-”

“These things, if they were all part of one continuum maybe we have a go for launch here. But this stuff…all this stuff. It doesn’t fit together. The demon things Frog found? And now this “Church” that’s got him. They’re not connected are they?”

“Not that we know of.”

“And that hell-lizard you’ve got stashed in the basement? The immortal sociopath you couldn’t control so you turned into a weapon? The recorded man? It’s all flotsam and jetsam, unrelated bits and pieces. It doesn’t work like that. It can’t work like that. The world…the world is supposed to have order. Something that ties it all together.” Vinny stops speaking finally, and he’s breathing hard.

“I know it’s a lot to take in,” Jenkins says. “But you can’t be worrying about all of that. Now, right now, your friend needs you.”

“What, you want me to help you get him back so you can run experiments on him?”

“We do our best to treat our subjects as humanely as possible. From what I’ve heard it would appear your friend, Frog, he wouldn’t pose an immediate threat to anyone around him. We’d take care of him.”

“Like you’ve taken care of me? Shut in a cage?”

“I don’t know. Honestly I don’t. But you don’t trust me when I say, the Church of the Broken God won’t be treating him well. They can’t abide loose ends. As long as they think he might be of value to them they’ll keep him alive, but after that…well after that all bets are off.”

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