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16+ Language Violence

The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 7: Winds of change

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

The sun had passed its peak, and Steve’s shadow began to grow. It trailed behind him as he exited the graveyard. The rusted metal door slammed violently behind Steve due to the howling wind that had passed through the soulless town. Steve covered his mouth and squinted his eyes. The gritty sand flew erratically towards him as he descended the hill.

The sand brushed against his face. His face felt as if it was being pricked by hundreds of pins all at once. He crouched behind a trashcan and waited for the wind to pass, hoping it would shelter him from the wind’s wrath. It’s no wonder everyone stays indoors here, Steve thought as the harsh wind howled so loudly it drained out all other sounds.

A few minutes later, the dust settled, and Steve reached the base of the arid hill. He had to walk barely under a kilometer to reach the nearest terminal, but he needed to do one last thing before he left. At the base of the hill, was a deserted shebeen. The sign hung lopsided by a wire above the entrance. As Steve ascended the steps leading to the entrance, the wooden floors creaked loudly. It was as if they would give way any moment and he would fall through the floor.

The bell rang as he opened the door. The shebeen was serviceable. The tables were well kept, and the wine was neatly stored. It seemed the most activity this town saw was in this very building. The serving counter needed some cleaning, and the bar stools could have been better kept. The most surprising feature, however, was how ancient it looked. It seemed as if this was taken out of a museum. Everything was made from oak with the exception of a few pieces of furniture. It was either imported from the 19th century, or it was designed by a passionate historian. With the lack of trees, Oak was incredibly expensive. More than silver perhaps.

Steve walked in between the tables and sat at the bar. He helped himself to some wine. Wine was wine; it didn’t really matter where it was from or how old it was to him. Suddenly, from the corner of the shebeen, something rattled his eardrum. He recognized that noise anywhere he went. His ears were programmed to listen for it. The unsheathing of a knife.

Steve’s nervous hand slithered its way to his knife in his back pocket. His other hand retrieved his pistol from its holster. He looked into the wine glass. The reflection revealed a man in a fedora gradually approaching him. He was surprised at how silent he was considering the floor creaked even if a mouse were to walk over it. Steve slipped the knife out of his shallow pocket slowly.

In a burst of energy, he leaped off the barstool like a cat and thrust it into his assailant’s path. The man jumped high over the stool. He instantly disarmed Steve and pinned him to the table. One hand wrapped around Steve’s throat, the other suspending the arm with the pistol in the air.

“Oh… It’s you,” the man said before releasing his grip on Steve.

Steve grasped his throat and took in a few deep breaths to nourish his lungs with oxygen. “You didn’t have to choke the life out of me, you know…”

“I’m a spy. I’m paranoid. It’s what’s kept me alive,” he chuckled. “Besides, we agreed you’d come here in the evening. I wasn’t expecting you here now. Nobody over here is awake at this point in the day. They’re a bunch of nocturnal bastards.”

Steve dusted himself and frowned at the wine stain on his white shirt, “Alright Jim, you got the intel?”

Jim, a spy of the Alliance who had been in deep cover for four years, hauled out a flash drive and waved it in the air.

“As promised,” he said handing it over to Steve.

“And you haven’t been compromised?” Steve asked raising an eyebrow.

Jim averted his gaze for a moment, “Yeah… About that… That’s why I wanted to meet in person. I need to be extracted. I’ve been compromised.”

“Sigvald?” asked Steve.

Jim nodded in approval, “I tried my best to get here unnoticed, but we need to leave here as soon as possible just in case I was followed.”

Steve nodded and grabbed his pistol and his knife off the table. He quickly sheathed the knife and holstered his pistol. Jim drew his coat over his shirt and adjusted his fedora. 

"I agree. The telepo-"

Bang! The bullet passed Steve narrowly and shattered the wine glass on the table.

Steve darted to a table and flipped it over to provide cover for himself and Jim. Another gunshot rang in their ears. One gunshot came from in front of them, another to the right, and another to their left. Jim flicked a switch on the inside of his fedora. It expanded like an umbrella and solidified into a shield.

“Ditch the table! Get behind me!” yelled Jim.

Steve kicked the table away from them to cover the windows, “We need to get them inside the bar!”

“What?!”

“We need to force them inside! Duck behind the countertop!” Steve screamed.

Jim and Steve vaulted swiftly over the countertop. Wood chips flew past them as the entire shebeen was ruthlessly destroyed by a relentless barrage of blaster bolts. The gunshots stopped. The shebeen fell silent. Steve strained his ears trying to gather what his unknown attackers were doing.

They have to be after Jim, right? Steve thought.

Tap…Tap… Tap…

One man approaching the door, Steve observed.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Another walking quickly to the left window.

Tap, Tap, Tap.

Last one running to the right window. Three men, two guns, one probably armed with a knife.

Steve lifted up three fingers to Jim. He then pointed to the entry points of each of them. The bell rang as the door creaked open. The cracked windows shattered as the other two entered the room as well. Their footsteps became louder. The wood began to creak.

Wait for it… Steve thought as he raised his open palm to Jim.

The creaking became louder. They could now hear the breathing of their attackers. Their breaths were heavy. Steve could almost smell their foul stench. Steve looked down at his gun. Fuck! Only two bullets, he cursed.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Suddenly they fired another series of gunshots haphazardly throughout the shebeen. Steve and Jim shut their eyes, praying none would hit them. Some pierced right through the counter they hid behind. The wine bottles shattered, and their contents dripped down the shelves. The shards flew across the room. Multiple shards cut into Jim’s body. Blood seeped out of the cut and ran down his face. He glanced at Steve.

“Don’t… Take deep breaths…” mouthed Steve.

Wait for it…

Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.

The shooting stopped. The shells fell to the grown clattering on the wooden floor. Then the resounding thud of three magazines hitting the floor reached their ears. Steve closed his hand.

“Now.”

In one swift motion, Steve and Jim jumped over the table. The first man reacted quickly. Before Steve could draw his pistol, he grabbed Steve’s arm. Steve’s wrist clicked. He yelled in pain, releasing his firearm. He kicked the man in the chest sending him tumbling backwards. Steve threw his knife into his attacker’s skull. It struck him between his brows causing him to collapse to the ground with a thud.

He rolled across the floor and pushed a bar stool into the second assailant’s path. He staggered. Jim punched him in the gut. He flipped his own knife in his hand and slit his assailant’s throat. Blood flowed violently as the man clasped his throat.

Jim heard a gun click. It certainly wasn’t Steve’s. He snapped his head in its direction. The last man had his gun barrel barely a meter from Jim’s face. Steve dashed for Jim’s shield.

“Jim!” he shouted as he threw the shield across the room.

He caught the shield barely in time to block the speeding bullet. The man buried several more rounds into the shield. It was barely holding up. The shield wasn’t built to sustain heavy fire. Jim rushed forward using what remained of the shield as cover to close the distance. He grabbed the man’s arm by the wrist. The man’s arm struggled with Jim’s as several bullets were shot randomly.

Jim winced. He released the man’s arm and instead swept his leg. The attacker dropped to the ground landing on a protruding glass shard on the floor. He screeched in pain. Jim twisted the gun out of his hand. He planted his foot over the man’s neck. Aiming the gun at the man’s head, Jim hesitated for a second, looking the man in the eye. He used the back of the gun to knock the man out.

Jim lifted his foot off the man’s neck. He breathed a hefty sigh of relief. He walked over to the countertop and picked up his shield which transformed back into his fedora. With all the dents it had, the fedora didn't fit snugly on his head as it once did.

Jim jumped out of his skin as Steve buried the remaining two bullets of his gun into the man Jim knocked out.

“You didn't have to kill him,” Jim said.

"One less SEKT agent in the field is always a good thing for us,” Steve replied. 

“You’ve grown rusty, I see. The last time I saw you fight; you’d have taken these folks out in a matter of seconds,” teased Jim as he tried to clean up the bodies.

"John was always more of a fighter than me," laughed Steve. "As long as my mind is still sharp I'll be useful."

A half-bald man in an apron barged into the wrecked shebeen, “What the hell happened here?”

“There was a break-in, sir,” responded Jim confidently. “We tried out best to preserve your establishment. We’ll call the police to file a report, but we must be on our way.”

"Preserve my establishment? This is hardly preserved," the man scoffed. "And these folks didn't even steal anything!"

At this point, the entire town stared at the two men walking off, covered in blood. They had all awakened from their mid-day nap to see what had happened. Steve and Jim did the best they could to avoid eye contact. Jim lowered his fedora and wrapped his trench coat around himself. The abandoned town was speechless. Never in their dull life had they thought they’d have something valuable enough to break into.

“SEKT really wants you dead,” chuckled Steve.

“After what I stole, I’d assume they would,” replied Jim. “On that flash drive, is a full biological analysis of the bioweapon I told you about earlier. I had to sneak under Sigvald’s nose to get that data.”

“And that made SEKT desperate enough to try and assassinate an Alliance member outside of an Abandoned Region. And what’s worse is that nobody’s going to bat an eyelid. That concerns me…”

Jim furrowed his eyebrows, “why? We have the upper hand now, right? Those three are dead, and the data is safe with us.”

Steve shook his head, “you’re not getting my point. SEKT now know they can operate outside the Abandoned Regions and mask their operations like assassinations as burglary, theft, or crime in general. This incident will be reported as a common burglary that was thwarted by two unknown men. No investigation and no questions asked. Sigvald now has free reign to mobilize all his agents and do whatever he desires and mask it as a crime syndicate.”

“We can report these incidents as assassination attempts, right? That’ll get the authorities on his case, and we’ll get increased security in our private lives.”

“But that begs the question of why a handful of supposedly random citizens are being targeted for assassination. The last thing I want is for anyone to ask that question. It's up to us to protect our own.”

“But surely, he can’t target every agent. He doesn’t have a dossier filed on everyone,” asked Jim.

“Exactly, which means he’s only going to target specific individuals. Individuals who have caused him trouble and interfered with his operations in the past,” Steve said.

“And who might those be?”

“Myself, you (now that you've been compromised), and the infiltrators. We’ve all got a massive crosshair on our heads now. Not just on the battlefield, but everywhere we go. And not just us, but everyone we care about, agent or not, is in Sigvald’s scopes,” Steve replied as he cleaned his knife with his sleeve.

Jim and Steve arrived at the teleporter. At this point, a dark, grey cloud had eclipsed the sun and the sky had darkened. The two men’s shadows that had once starkly contrasted with the dry earth faded. Faint sounds of thunder echoed through the sky. The clouds began to flash as lightning jumped from cloud to cloud.

Steve and Jim looked up as the first drops of rain fell from the sky and onto their faces. Then the drizzle became a violent shower. It soaked their clothes and the blood dripped off them and pooled on the floor. It soaked into the dry ground turning the golden brown sand a few shades deeper with a hint of redness. The deafening thunder cracked like a whip and a bolt of lightning struck the ground in the distance. A gust of wind swiftly blew past Steve and Jim. It howled as it did before.

"There is a silver lining to all this, I suppose," Steve said. "I have a feeling this bioweapon is the only thing Sigvald has left to achieve his mission. If we stop this, we stop him."

The two inserted their cards into the teleporting machine and vanished from sight.

Author's Note:

Just some things I wanted to know about this chapter...

1. Is the beginning too slow? Should I lengthen or shorten the descriptions for Steve's journey down the hill and into the shebeen?

2. This is the first action sequence I've written that isn't fast-paced. What do you think of the tension (if there was any) during or before the fight? Where and how can I improve?

3. What did you think of Sigvald's plan to hide his operations as a common crime? Do you think it makes sense?

4. Lastly, is there anything you feel was missing from the chapter? Something you felt was unnecessary?

Thanks for reading and reviewing!


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Thu Jun 23, 2022 9:15 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi VengefulReaper!

First Impressions

I did notice that this was the first chapter that has an extended fight scene. I usually find fight scenes a bit hard to follow, especially if they’re very detailed, but I liked the one you’ve got here. I also like that the setting is being expanded to a different location here, although I found myself at first trying to piece together how this place relates to the graveyard he was in at the end of the last chapter.

Also, this is going to be a little silly, but I just wanted to say that the fedora-shield bit really made me chuckle. I have no idea if that was the intention, but it’s just one of the things that is staying with me after reading this chapter, and I thought I’d bring it up. I think I found it funny especially because the shield turns back into a fedora right after Jim is done using it – almost like magic.

The descriptions in the beginning

I liked this line:

It was either imported from the 19th century, or it was designed by a passionate historian.

It’s funny, and it adds some personality to the narration. It kind of helps me more in imagining what the place looks like as well, because this brings to mind a slightly more specific atmosphere – whereas I’m not familiar with what shebeens generally look like, and also the other descriptions seem a bit vague (e.g. the tables are “well kept”, the wine is “neatly stored”, the bar stools are not “better kept”).

Something that could be improved on is maybe the variety of descriptions? I know I have this same problem with using the structure ‘X was Y’ and ‘There were X’ a lot in my own writing. In this chapter, the 4th paragraph feels a little repetitive with “The shebeen was . . . The tables were . . . the most activity . . . was”, if that makes sense. It slows the pace down quite a bit and is less vivid than using strong verbs like ‘sat’, ‘lingered’ or ‘hugged’. Something that you could maybe think about with, for instance, the wine description, could be: how was the wine neatly stored? Did the bottles sit in rows? Were they organised by age or type?

Fight scene

They have to be after Jim, right? Steve thought.
Tap…Tap… Tap…
One man approaching the door, Steve observed.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Another walking quickly to the left window.
Tap, Tap, Tap.
Last one running to the right window. Three men, two guns, one probably armed with a knife.


I like the concept of this part. It’s a nice way to add some variety and make the fight scene more exciting by ‘concealing’ the attackers at first. I wonder if it could do without the thought tags like “Steve thought” and “Steve observed”, as those tend to slow down the pace. At least, I tend to see more phrases like these in the ‘slow’ segments of a story, so that’s what I associate them with.

The first man reacted quickly. Before Steve could draw his pistol, he grabbed Steve’s arm. Steve’s wrist clicked. He yelled in pain, releasing his firearm.

I like moments like these that show the difficulties in the battle. They make the scene more tense and interesting to read.

Plot / Sigvald’s Plan

While I don’t see any plot holes with Sigvald’s plan the way Steve described it, I do find that Steve’s assessment doesn’t have enough ‘evidence’ coming with it in the descriptions of how the townsfolk reacted. I think the townsfolk could have been better utilized to show how Sigvald intended his crimes to be covered up as regular petty theft.
"Preserve my establishment? This is hardly preserved," the man scoffed. "And these folks didn't even steal anything!"

The owner of the shebeen doesn’t seem to think it was a theft.
The abandoned town was speechless. Never in their dull life had they thought they’d have something valuable enough to break into.

This part was very general, and kind of went by too quickly for it to sink in that they really thought a theft had occurred, especially since the only townfolk character to make a significant appearance was the one who didn’t seem to think a theft had occurred. Maybe a little bit more description and interaction between the townspeople, Jim and Steve might help this part flow better and correlate more with what Steve says?

Setting

I like the description of the weather in this chapter. It fits the mood of the scene and brings a sense of chaos and ominousness. I particularly liked the description “lightning jumped from cloud to cloud” – it’s kind of figurative, but still feels realistic and brings to mind a concrete image.

Overall

I thought this was a satisfying chapter to read. It got across some ‘main’ points which are Sigvald’s plans and introducing this new character, Jim. The fight scene was definitely interesting and engaging, even though I was at times a bit confused how to feel, switching from the serious violence to the fedora-shield. (I’m still not 100% sure why that bit made me laugh, but there we go. Could very well just be me.)

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




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Thu May 26, 2022 9:47 pm
SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hey! Salis here with another review!!
The things I want to comment on are actually aligned with what you want to know, so I'll get right to it!
I liked the part in the beginning where Steve's shadow grows ans trails behind him as this can be taken not only in a literal, but in a figurative sense as well – the shadow of doubt and guilt in his heart is growing as he leaves the graveyard. Other than that, though, the initial description can be shortened.
For example, the part with the wind and the sand it brought can be shortened. I suppose its purpose is to show the more extreme conditions in this Abandoned Region, but as it serves no role in furthering the plot and there are plenty of descriptions after it, it becomes a bit redundant.
At the same time, I loved the way you described the interior of the shebeen. It felt cozy although it's located in such a place and I felt like wanting to visit it at one point, so cudos on how you handled that!
Moving on to the action sequence, I was surprised that Steve's initial attacker was an ally, but you did a great job with playing with expectations there. I'm also glad we have a spy like Jim included in the story. Seeing as how he and Steve seem to go way back and the man has been deep undercover for years, I'm sure he'll bring a lot to the story.
The tension during the whole actual battle was great. I felt fear for both characters at all times and using the tapping sound to show the enemies' movements made the whole situation all the more unnerving. Personally, I think the whole fight was the highlight of the chapter and wouldn't change a thing about it.
Introducing the idea that Sigvald can now cover up his operations to his heart's content right after Steve and Jim survive the assassination attempt is a great idea as this shows that there's things to worry about even in triumph. I'd say it's plenty plausible given that real-life secret organizations have used similar approaches to cover up their actions. I'm no expert on the subject, though, so maybe someone more knowledgeable should comment on this. Purely as a plot device, it has my stamp of approval.
As I mentioned earlier, the description of the wind early on is the only thing in this chapter that feels out of place for me, especially when there's another desctiption of the weather at the end of the chapter. Everything else was great and kept my full attention throughout the whole read.
Thanks for the chapter! Keep on writing!!






Thanks so much for the review! I'll definitely shorten the descriptions in the beginning.




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