Articles and stories on the history and people of The Demon Archives world.

11

May 2016

Essence of Nightshade – Part 4

Posted by / in Lore / 6 comments

[Read Part 3]

[Dan Note: Part 4 has a fair amount of very graphic and disturbing language and content of violent, sexual, and just downright disgusting nature. Reader discretion advised and etc.  I recommend some nice cat pictures afterwords.]

 

In order to understand the fallout of Okane’s mutiny, I’m including this article from the Glaucus Journal of Science and Medicine, since it’s conceivable that readers of my finished dissertation may not have access to the database.

 

The Glaucus Journal of Science and Medicine

Nature vs. Nurture: Fionn Okane as Parent and the Birth of a Bandit Nation

Patel C. Everett, M.D., Patricia Hong, M.D., and Gunter Schulman, M.D.
G J SciMed 2100; 53: 808-810. August 9, 2100. DOI: 20.1056/GJSM1018211

 

Four months ago, over one hundred and fifty soldiers deserted Aegis simultaneously under the orders of one man. For four months, Oculus has attempted to track the renegade soldiers, Aegis has attempted to reorganize their shattered forces, and Glaucus has attempted to understand how and why nearly an entire company of Minervan citizens chose to separate themselves from our society on April 3, 2100. On all fronts, our branches have failed, and now that these renegade soldiers have attacked and abducted a convoy of Glaucus agricultural engineers, our efforts have become more desperate than ever. Some commentators, such as The Oculus Observer’s Tom Borchert, have hypothesized that Fionn Okane’s cult of personality within the 8th Company is singularly responsible for this mass desertion. According to Borchert, the former Zone 5 general was “idolized by the soldiers under his command with a religious zeal,” and that “Okane’s cult of personality had become so powerful over the years that, when he chose to desert, his company deserted with him.”1 This places the blame for the 8th Company’s crimes squarely on the shoulders of Okane alone, and creates a rather reductive view of the crisis.

Psychologists and political analysts have, perhaps, been taking the wrong approach in studying this mass desertion. Instead of seeing Okane as a cult of personality, it would be more accurate to analyze his motivations as a parent, for this is clearly how he views himself. This leaves us with two possibilities: is Okane, according to Baumrind’s parenting styles, a permissive parent, who has allowed his children the freedom to rape and pillage according to their own whims, or is he a vicarious parent, encouraging his men to commit acts of savagery that he himself cannot physically perpetrate? In order to understand Okane’s role in the bandit nation known as the Family, we must examine the abnormal psychology of its most notorious member: Amon Kelter.

Beginning his military career as an enlisted private in the 8th Company, Kelter was described as a model soldier. He followed orders to the letter, displayed discipline and courtesy at home and in the field, and he consistently scored in the 90th percentile on the PAAS at his yearly psychological evaluations. Kelter was eventually promoted to Staff Sergeant and reassigned to the Minervan Military Police, where he first met Fionn Okane while guarding the Aegis command sector. There was no change in his disposition as a result of his interactions with Okane, and he served the Military Police with the same courtesy and distinction that he displayed in the field. However, on April 3, 2100, after disobeying an order for Okane’s arrest on April 2, Kelter broke into the weapons division of the Glaucus R&D Labs, shot five research assistants and three engineers, equipped a Hercules MK II Powered Armor exoskeleton with assistance from his fellow deserters, and proceeded to shoot six more civilians on his way to the hangar where the rest of Okane’s Family had gathered. Of the twenty civilian casualties on April 3, Amon Kelter was personally responsible for fourteen of them.

In the past four months, eyewitnesses have identified Kelter as leading six raids on Minervan towns, during which he has murdered at least two dozen civilians without discrimination to age or gender. Some deaths have been attributed to defiance, but many of them appear to have been unprovoked. Furthermore, at the Battle of Dzhumaliev Pass, Kelter was responsible for twenty-nine Aegis casualties, and analyst Pierre Lemieux claims that his ambush was “the deciding factor in the largest battle between two professional military forces that our society has ever seen.”2 Not only has Kelter’s moral judgment completely vanished, so has his previously displayed loyalty toward Aegis.

And then there is the mystery of the Kelter Cans, which has brought him even greater infamy than the violence he has perpetrated against his former comrades. It has been reported by survivors of Kelter’s attacks that certain civilians are stripped naked, lacerated repeatedly with either a knife or a whip, and then placed inside oil drums full of an unidentified liquid. These drums, colloquially known now as “Kelter Cans,” are loaded onto the Family APCs and taken away. It is unknown what happens to the victims after this, as all attempts to track the Family’s movements, either by satellite or by patrol, have proven fruitless.

When questioned in response to these actions, his mother, Sophie Kelter, denied any hints of abnormal psychology early in his life. “He always wanted to be the best at whatever he did,” she explained in an interview with Dr. Patricia Hong. “He was the best son. He was the best soldier. He never settled for less. I don’t believe that it’s him.”3 An investigation into Kelter’s paternal lineage uncovered that Sophie Kelter was artificially inseminated as a candidate of the Swan Initiative in 2074 and, as per the SDPA, the donor’s records have been sealed.

The conclusion, it would seem, is that Amon Kelter has been coerced into abandoning his morality and his loyalty by Okane, who has likely used Kelter’s fatherless upbringing to imprint himself as Kelter’s new father. This lends credence to the idea that Okane is living vicariously through his soldiers, that he is nurturing men into killers and deviants when they would otherwise abide by the laws and conventions of Minervan society.

The fact that he has managed to influence so many soldiers and transformed them so completely leaves this issue open for further debate, as the second, and more disturbing, possibility cannot be discounted. Perhaps the soldiers of the 8th Company felt repressed by the strict regulations of the late Commander Melkonian, and their rebellion is an outlet for these repressed urges. Okane’s famous warning during the conclusion of his trial, when he asked Commander Melkonian if his soldiers would rather follow a leader “who acknowledges their humanity, or one who does not,”4 suggests that, at least in Okane’s mind, he is merely fulfilling the wishes of the soldiers under his command. If this is the case, then our findings indicate a far more troubling conclusion: that Amon Kelter is a strain of psychopath hitherto unseen in our field, one whose methodology is so subtle and so alien that it cannot be traced, even in hindsight.

 

-This next segment of testimony can be rather disturbing, but I feel it is important to share it wholly and honestly.  We in Minerva have a tendency to avoid and ignore the harsh reality of the world, and our own history, in a way I find distasteful and harmful to our intellectual and social health.

 

How do you feel, Mrs. Beshimov?

 I am feel…soft. Is this correct? I am feel…slow. Heart is slow. Tongue is slow. But I am not feel afraid now. What he do to me, I am not feel anymore. What is it I say?

You told us the Family captured you. What happened to Nightshade?

I do not know. The men, they stand me up, and I see Family brother run to where Nightshade go. But I do not look at them. I look at Amon Kelter. He stand in front of me and stare at me with his owl eyes. I think he is measure me, from my foot to the top of my head. Every space of my body. When he look at me, I think I know what he want. I think he will use me like a man use a woman. Like Hamid, weak sick dead pig Hamid, he use me. I think I know what to do, how to put my mind away. But what he want, it is worse than this. It is worse than anything.

Amon Kelter, he do not speak, but another man, he run to the APC and take a oil drum from rack on the side. This drum, I remember, it is brown and stain with I think it rust. He drag the barrel to us, and it look heavy. I hear a liquid inside, and a smell that disgust me. Like the choking pig shit smell of Amon Kelter, but more strong. I know that this drum, it is not for oil, and the stain, it is not rust.

I do not understand yet, but I cry still. Kelter, he take a knife with his left hand and he stab down into my abaya. He take three jerk of his hand, and he cut my abaya open to the ground. The men, they make sound, and they stare, and they look of hunger. Kelter, he look at me again, measure me. He ask me where I want to grow. I do not understand. I cry. His knife, it drag on my skin and leave cold. He stop at my hand and the cold go hot. He stab in my hand, not deep, but right across. Like this. I try to move my hand, but the men, they hold me still. I feel soft and slow, like I am feel right now. He make cut up my arm, and you see, four time. Then, we hear explosion. Amon Kelter, even his head turn like a owl. Gunfire down the canyon. He turn away with his knife that drip my blood. The men, they drop me. I can only sit and shake and feel a warm wet run down my arm and my legs.

Then, I hear footstep. I think Nightshade, she is dead, because her feet, they make no sound, and if the men return alive, then she is dead. I look up, but I see only Family brother. There are three, when I see six leave to find the Dust Witch. They do not bring her body. Amon Kelter, he ask if they kill her. The men, they say nothing. They look afraid, and I am to hope still that Nightshade, she come back for me. Kelter, he wipe my blood on his bare arm and he put the knife away.

“Move,” he say to the men in his whisper. Then he walk back to the APC. I know I must run, I cannot stay. I think I let them shoot me, so I will die quick. So when the man on my side, he move to the oil drum, I jump to my feet and run. I feel a hand on my arm, it press on the cut that Amon Kelter make. I scream, and the hand, it pull me back and my shoulder pop. The man at the drum, he come to me and pull my other arm. The Family brother, they drag me to the oil drum. The top is open and liquid, it is brown. The smell, it make me vomit on the brother. They laugh, and he wipe his hand on me, and they lift me up, they push my legs and arms together, and they drop me into the drum.

Into the shit and piss of the Family. Astagfirullaha al azeem. My eyes, they are close, and my mouth, it is close, but I feel the warm and the solid piece that float and press around me. I want to scream. There is heat in my body, more hot than the sun-warm shit. I want to cover my arm, but the drum is small and my arms, they cannot to move. I feel it press up into my nose. Sirs, I wish I run faster. I wish they shoot me. I wish I never think of this again, that I never am feel like I drown in shit, but I feel this again, in my sleep today. I think I feel it for all my life.

They close the top, and the drum, it lift up. My heart beat for to burst. The drum, it slide into the rack on the APC, and soon, I feel the engine roar. I cannot to breathe. I cannot to open my eyes. The APC, it move, and I press into the rough side of the drum. I try to lift my head above the liquid. I feel a small space between the top and the shit. I turn up my face and let out my air. I close my mouth before the liquid rush in. I turn up again and breathe, I suck in too much air and some liquid come into my mouth. I almost vomit again, sirs. I think I choke on my vomit if I do, so I hold down the liquid with all my strength. Astagfirullaha al azeem…

Mrs. Beshimov?

Yes. Please forgive. I remember next…I hear a metal thump. It sound very soft under the liquid. I think this is a rock, maybe it fall from the wall on the drum. The Family, they drive for some time, and I try to breathe just when my chest, it feel so tight that I will die. Do you know that this is how to punish the liar in Jahannam? The liar is to drown in river of shit, and the demon, they force the head under the river with spear and fork. I think of every lie I ever tell, even the lie I tell to dead dog Hamid, and I pray. I pray for to forgive. Astagfirullaha al azeem. I raise my head again to breathe and I notice that the space, it is bigger. I fit my whole head above the liquid. I do not open my eyes, I feel the scum on my lashes, but I can hear, it sound like the liquid drain from the drum. The APC, it drive on longer and the liquid drain away. I sit in the drum, I shake, my arms and legs tight. I try to wipe away the scum from my eyes, I have to open. I look quickly, and I see light come in from the bottom of the drum, under my leg. I turn my leg and there is a hole, small, like a bullet. Yes, I know now that this is Nightshade.

My eyes burn, and I close again. My arm burn also, where the knife cut me. The cut on my hand, it itch like ants crawl in it. The side of drum scratch my skin. I feel so hot, more than when I am drowning in shit. I cannot help to scream, sirs. I scream and scream. I scream so long my throat, it feel like I swallow glass. This is why I need the water. This is why you come close to hear me speak.

I hear another scream, a man scream. Then, I remember I see two more oil drum on the rack before. His scream, it make me silent. To hear this sound from a man, it sound like his soul try to escape. It sound like he split apart. I think that this man has been in the drum since Gulnara. I think this is me if Nightshade do not shoot the hole in my barrel. I think my soul will split my body to escape.

I shake still, and burn, but the smell, it become less. It become a common smell to me. Tears, they clean the scum from my eyes. The man scream. I think he will never stop. I think the journey will never stop. The light, it become orange in the drum. The metal grind my bones. Then, the light go out sudden. I hear the engine echo. We are under the ground. I think this is where the Family hide, but they drive more, for some time. I think we drive to the center of the Earth, to Jahannam, to the demon world. I think I will see the torture of my traitor husband, and this make me smile.

Then the APC stop, and the AUV stop, and all engine sound stop. With no engine sound, I hear many men speak. I hear machine. This is familiar sound. This is sound of the hangar at Gulnara. The APC, it shake, and the Family brother, they walk out. I remember I feel so afraid, I want to stay in the drum. It is strange I am not feel afraid now. The Family, they take the oil drum out of the rack. The voice, they raise louder. They slam down the drum. I think they find that the shit is drain away. I do not breathe. Then, the drum I sit is throw from the APC, and I scream. I hit my head and scratch my skin as the drum, it hit the ground and roll.

I am dizzy and I bleed again. The drum, it stop sudden and the lid is tear off. The room is large and dark and metal, but before I see the hangar, I see the scar and burn arm of Amon Kelter reach and grab my hair. He pull me out and lay me on my back. I have no strength to resist. He lift his giant foot and hold it over my belly. He stare with his owl eyes and does not blink, but his eyes, they look wet as if to cry.

He ask me, “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” I say. “Nothing.” I tell him nothing over and over and over. He lower his foot every time, and I feel it press on my skin. I know if he just drop his foot, he crush my rib and burst my stomach. But we hear a voice that stop us both.

This voice, it sound like a horn of battle. It say “Stand down, my son.”

Amon Kelter, he turn around and stand straight. I roll to my side and see the hangar now. It look just like the hangar at Gulnara, but bigger and more empty. There are no light in the ceiling. Only light on stand in the corners of the hangar. I see Family brother everywhere, I see vehicle, I even see women in dirty robe. I almost do not see the small man that walk to us. He have a black and white beard to his chest, and a flat cap, and small dark eyes. He wear a clean uniform of Aegis, but he have no medal or symbol on it. He carry a bag, and he take seed from it to eat. I hear them crunch in his teeth.

I notice this man because the Family brother around him drop to the knee and look down at the ground. Amon Kelter, he even drop to his knee and shake the hangar. He call the man Father.

The Father, he wave his hand and he silent Amon Kelter. Then he walk past him and stop to look down on me.

“You look like you have a story to tell,” he say to me. His voice, it raise my skin. This is the general? The man who make the Family?

That’s correct, Mrs. Beshimov. His name is Fionn Okane.

 

-Oh boy. You know what I said earlier about disturbing and honesty?  It gets worse.  Some of this I definitely won’t be including in my public reports, but the psychological intel on Nightshade here is immensely informing.

 

19 February, 2100

 

I need a shower. I don’t know how to properly start this entry, so there it is. That’s what I need. Feels rather good to be home, in spite of everything. I’m quite certain Uriah is tired of riding circles round the desert, as well. The poor beast needs to be bathed and reshod, just like his master. I would be soaking right now if I weren’t so desperate to put my thoughts in order. It’s been over a month in the wild, and the words demand to be let out. I’d planned to write about the children Okane had tapped to play the evidence, the silent holes gaped in their faces as I appeared to them out of thin air, the terror in their eyes as I told them what would happen if they lied in court. I don’t know what he offered them, but I doubt they value it more than their mortal souls.

I would have written about this feeling of triumph, of vengeance and justice combined, but Luther had to go and cock it all up. He should have just let it alone. I knew something was wrong soon as I got back. There were no supplies by the door. I thought perhaps he had been waylaid, but I was long overdue for a resupply. My next thought was that someone had discovered the base. Summerland said she’d be out ’til the end of the year, so it couldn’t have been her.

I tugged my goggles back on and unholstered my pistol. Infrared showed a man sitting at the table with his hands folded over each other. The supply packs were lying on the floor under the table. Even though I knew who it was, I kept my goggles on and my pistol drawn as I opened the door.

“Hey, Thali,” the man-shaped blob said in Luther’s voice. The digital trajectory marker bobbed round his forehead, like a green string pulled taut between his head and the barrel of my gun. “Long time no see.”

It took me a moment to lower my handgun. The string traveled down his neck, brushed gently over his heart, his hands, and then finally disappeared back into its holster. “So what’s changed, then?” I asked.

“I, uh…” he faltered, rapped his hands in discomfort on the table. “Do you mind taking those off?”

“Do you mind telling me what you’re doing here?” I wanted to remain faceless; hostile. I wanted to put the fear of the Dust Witch into him like I’d done with those poor children. “You’re supposed to leave the supplies at the door.”

“I had to see you,” he said, as if it were a universal truth that I should have known my entire life.

“Please don’t confuse your wants with your needs,” I told him, walking across the room and stowing my scout rifle on the rack. It helped to see him as a shaded blob, with no emotion or human definition to his face, but it helped even more to busy myself. “You don’t need anything from me.”

I heard him get up out of his chair. “Okay, well, would you at least turn around so I can look you in the creepy glowing bug eyes while I say what I’ve gotta say?”

“You have to see me, you have to say this or that. What did I tell you about wants and needs?”

“For fuck’s sake, Thalia, I just got married.”

That was when the goggles came off, if only to see the look on his face to tell if he was putting me on. I didn’t move from the gun rack, but I glanced at him over my shoulder. “To what, a camel? Do the Joon Aryk allow that sort of thing?”

“No, and I’ll tell you what else they don’t like. They don’t like dragging around an outsider for five years either.”

“I thought they had an agreement with General Kubek.” I swiveled the rest of my body to face him. It was strange, standing across from him in my exoskeleton, both of us nearly at eye level. His hair has grown wild and curly against his red paisley scarf. Once, he looked ridiculous in that nomad costume, like an overgrown child dressed up for theatre. He no longer looks like a child, and it no longer looks like a costume.

“We do. They do. And they trusted me, because of that, but they didn’t like me.”

“Apparently somebody likes you.” I shrugged off my cloak, pretending not to watch him from the corner of my eye.

“Almost forgot how that feels,” he said, shutting out the vulnerability that he’d let into his voice. “Listen, Thali. You live with a group of people long enough, and whether they like you or not, it gets to the point where they have to let you in or throw you out. The Joon Aryk can’t throw me out, or they lose Kubek’s support, but there’s only one way in.”

“Am I supposed to believe that you were really so reluctant to take a young virgin bride? What sacrifice. What nobility.”

“You don’t have to believe anything. I just needed you to know.”

“Wanted. Why did you want me to know that? Why should I care?” I unlocked my knuckle dusters and hung them in the armour locker.

“Because you used to care about me.”

“I thought the problem was that I didn’t care.” I released the pressure seals and shimmied out of my armour. I felt unprotected and exposed in just my plugsuit. Should have kept it on, but I just had to find something to do with my hands. Something so I wouldn’t have to look at him.

“No, the problem is that I’m an insecure shithead. You let me in, so I know you cared. It just didn’t work out the way I wanted.”

“Of course not. You tried to fix it, you stupid git.” My boots were stowed. I was out of armour and out of things to occupy myself, so I finally turned to look at him. He was standing now, as if poised to leap to my side, but he just trembled there in mid-motion, held back by invisible hands.

“I guess I’m not the right man to fix it,” he said with a shrug. That did it for me.

“You can’t fix it!” I screamed. “It can’t be fixed! I am not a dented tin roof for you to hammer back into shape! There are parts of me that will never work again. I accepted that. I wanted the next best thing, Luther. I wanted a connection. You just wanted to feel good about yourself. You wanted to be the white knight. Well, I’m not here to be fixed! I’m not going to pretend that hopping into bed with you changed my life, because it didn’t. If that hurts your fragile ego, then perhaps you’re the one that needs fixing, not me.”

Luther stood there, rigid, trying to swallow something in his throat. I, on the contrary, felt supple and animate. I threw my legs over the back of the couch and stepped off the cushions to stand before him. The plugsuit felt exactly like I imagined my skin to be – leathery and punctuated by sharp points of metal. I was, essentially, naked, but sheathed in that second skin, I wasn’t afraid. In fact, when I looked into Luther’s eyes, I saw fear in him, and not just any fear. It was the same bottomless panic that I’ve seen so often before in the eyes of the men that I’ve killed. There was a time when I would have been ashamed to admit that it gave me a predatory thrill. There was a time when I never could have imagined that such power sat within me.

I had nothing else to say to him, and he seemed unable to shake his prey fixation, so I grabbed the curls of his nomad hair and swallowed his mouth in my own. It wasn’t the sort of fragile kisses we’d shared before. I sucked at his lips as if to tear them off. I didn’t care about doing it right or masking my inexperience. I simply took what I wanted and I didn’t give a damn about him or his virgin bride. I pulled him down and split open my plugsuit and his robes fell around me like harem silks. I was so busy attacking him with my lips and teeth and fingernails that he couldn’t tell how numb it felt on the inside, that it wasn’t the nerve endings or even anything he did, but the pure sense of dominance that caused my muscles to spasm and my breath to gasp in his ear.

That was always his problem. He cared too much about how I felt. The secret all along was to get him to hate me, and it’s a shame I didn’t pick up that trick until now, when his bridge is burning to ash behind me. I finally felt that connection, of two bodies in sync. I finally realized that what I wanted from sex all along was power, and whenever I submitted to him, whenever I let myself become weak and vulnerable, that was when my first father’s trowel dug into me. My entire life has been a search for power, to find what he took from me. I thought that was what made me such an effective weapon, and why I could sympathize with the powerless people of the wasteland. I had no idea that it was power, not pleasure, that I wanted from my own body.

I suppose I should feel guilty for what I’ve done, but I can’t. I can’t even feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Didn’t look him in the face when I was finished with him. I just stood, gathered up my plugsuit, and walked to my room. I locked the door and listened to him kicking over chairs and swearing at me, and it’s hard to describe the way it made me feel. Not proud, but not disgusted. Not how I should feel. I keep waiting for the sickness to come, the clenching of my guts, but it never does. I think he stayed for about ten more minutes, and then I heard him gather his things. The door hissed. I don’t think he’ll ever set foot inside here again.

God, I need a shower.

 

-At the end of my last entry, I said I was impressed by Nightshade.  This time… I’m awed.  Maybe even a bit afraid, I’ll admit.  I still want to meet her, but I’ll need to be very careful.

[Read Part 5]

[Essence of Nightshade was written by guest contributor Josh Connor, author of the webcomic Steel Salvation, with Dan providing story guidance to make it canon along with writing the archivist commentary.  Art by Robert Jackson.]

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