Friday, October 26, 2018

The Art of War, Part Four: Fight without fighting

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."                                                              - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Molten copper scales caught the light and rasped against themselves as the dragon surged forward.

My spell enhanced reflexes, which had served me so well in the past, were not up to the task.  The dragon's hand grasped my chest. I was hurled up and backward to be pinned against the wall.  The strange scent of the creature hit me even as my astral sight was assaulted by the sheer brilliant power that held me fast.

"I said, give it to me.  NOW."  My skull rang from the force of dragon's thoughts battering their way into my mind.

"No." I gasped.

The beast growled and plumes of strange smoke surged from its flaring nostrils.

I was terrified. There is no shame in admitting fear, chummers.  Fear saves your hoop more often than your trusty sidearm.  Fear informs you of danger, triggers your reflexes, gets the adrenaline flowing and generally does heavy duty in the task of keeping you alive.  Dragons, they radiate an aura of power that generates bladder releasing terror. My fear was too real, and threatened to overwhelm me.  I looked into that maw filled with teeth that would make a shark jealous and wanted to scream.

"I'm losing my patience, ape!" The thought voice rang in my skull. "GIVE. IT. TO. ME."

"No." I managed to squeak. I saw the anger blooming in the dragon as it fought to control its terrible wrath.  My mind became quiet and clear as I saw death before me.  The great beast was stronger, faster, smarter and far more magically powerful than I would ever be. It was going to kill me with no more thought than going over a speed bump.

"Machine, hand him the stone." Samantha said firmly. I couldn't see her, but her voice carried that same clear tone of command.

"No means no, Control." I replied.

The dragon roared and my ears rang.  Blood erupted from my nose and ears, my eyes stung from the force of the air blasting past me.  I was thrown onto the leather couch near the floor to ceiling window that overlooked downtown Seattle.  It flipped backwards and I was spilled onto the immaculate floor.

"I WILL PRY IT FROM YOUR COLD DEAD HANDS!!!" the voice hit my mind and pushed my face to the cold floor.

I thrust my hand into my pocket and pulled out the small stone, light erupting from between my fingers.  My intuition screamed at me to run, my mind was numb from the shock of the telepathic assault,  but in that moment a sliver of inspiration hit me.  I was pushing myself up from the floor when a cackle escaped my throat. "Great. I've gone as crazy as Creep" I thought to myself.  I laughed anyway.  The thought crawling through my mind was too ridiculous to be real.

The dragon stopped and roared at me again.  My left eye began to bleed as the capillaries in my tear ducts ruptured from the impact.

"Pry it from MY cold dead hands?  Sure you can, but then it would never be yours, would it?" I snapped at him.  The more I thought about it the more it made sense.  The dragon could have invaded my mind and made me give it over, could have torn my arms off and pulled it from my pocket, or just had Samatha fry me in my seat then pull the charred stone off my corpse.  But he didn't and there it was.

I held the small stone in the palm of my hand, light bathing the room and my bloodied hands.  "You're going to TAKE this from me?  Waste a perfectly good asset over a piece of stone?  It's mine. It likes me.  I've claimed it and in spite of whatever you may want me to believe, I know it in my soul that this stone would never accept you if you took it."  I looked up at the dragon, its fury plainly obvious.  "If you took it, it would never be yours.  That is the trick, isn't it?  You want me to 'give' it to you.  You toss me around the office but don't kill me.  Dragon's aren't stupid, you know I can't defeat you, but I could certainly get lucky." Blood ran down my cheek, out of my ears and onto my suit. "You can't have it.  And, unless you want to terminate our contract right now, you'll get the frag out of my way.  I need to change."

I was pretty sure I had fragged up for the last time in my life at that point.  No one said anything for a very long moment.  Samantha's aura was brilliant in its naked power but the dragon's aura blazed in its wrath.

"No one defies me, little mage." his thought voice was loud, but firmly controlled.  The menace dripping from the words into my mind.

"No one steals from me." I replied.

The dragon stared at me with inhuman eyes, the gleam of its scales softening as its form shifted back to the familiar form of the most terrifying man I had ever met.  A wave of his hand collected the shreds of his clothing into a twirling mass of fabric that swarmed over this body, joining together until he once again wore the same immaculate suit he had shredded with his transformation. His eyes gradually shifted back to the stormy blue-grey, his aura becoming that of a perfectly mundane human.

He smiled at me, his thought voice once again invading my mind. "I didn't think you would understand the significance.  I underestimated you." He walked over next to Samantha and gestured toward the door.

"I'll take that as a compliment." I said as I limped out of Samantha's office.

I wove the healing spell as soon as I passed the receptionist desk, holding it fast to myself as I called the elevator. I rode the metal box to the 87th Floor, got off and started walking toward my office.  There were several weapon specialists who fell silent and stepped aside as I walked past them.  The blood on my hands and clothes were my own, I had no doubt I had left some on the carpet and the elevator floors.  Fey was waiting at my door.  When she saw me approaching, she stiffened.

"Machine?!? What the frag?" she took a step toward me but I raised my hand.

"I want a sit rep on Creep and Jazz asap.  Verify the data personally.  Take four men with you, weapons free."  I told her.

"What?" she stopped cold, confusion on her face.

"Move it." my voice was low and firm. I didn't leave room for questions in my tone.  Fey nodded and darted off, calling out names to the FNG's I had just passed in the hall.  I entered my office and locked my door behind me.

{Continued in part five}

Thank you for reading my fan fiction!

I hope you are enjoying this story. If you do, please share it with others.

I hope you join me for Part five.

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