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18+ Language Violence

The Interlude Chapter 4: Crimson Pulse Part 1

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and violence.

Emily sprung out of bed, her feet hitting the cool wooden floor with a soft thud. She rubbed her clouded eyes and glanced over to her side, finding a crumpled blanket that still held the warmth of her body. The curtains were drawn to their sides showing the vacuum of space beyond their secluded abode. Emily would have supposed Adrian had left for duty once more, but she could still see his neat pile of clothes on the armchair and the exo-suit tucked away in the corner of the living room. A faint breeze brushed against her face.

"Adrian?" she called out, but only an echo returned.

As she made her way towards the living room, Emily's ears twitched at the sound of quiet chatter. Any type of visitor, from her experience, was never a friendly one. By the sound of it, it seemed there were at least two people outside her home.

She snuck her way to the exo-suit that was tucked away in the corner of the living room. She lifted her palm and placed it on the chest plate of the suit, feeling the familiar hum of energy beneath her fingertips. In an instant, neon blue streams began to flow around the armour, pulsing with life as the suit slithered onto her body like a second skin. It twisted and morphed, each piece fitting perfectly into place as if they were made specifically for her.

Emily Salacron, identified. Loading configs…

It had been years since she had worn the suit, but she could do nothing now but trust that her skills were still sharp enough for an encounter with an intruder.

With thunderous steps that were unavoidable given the weight of the suit on wooden flooring, she marched towards the front door and forcefully flung it open, her guard raised and ready for any threat that may come her way.

She saw two shadowy figures looming over Adrian's motionless body in their barren yard. Her heart raced with fear and anger. She instinctively reached for the revolver slotted in the utility belt.

“Stay away from him!” she barked.

The two figures lifted their heads, startled. “We’re not here to hurt him. Calm down.”

“I said,” Emily hissed. “Stay away from him!”

She fired a warning shot to the side of them making the first one jump. A feminine voice barely noticeable to her echoed from the darkness as she slowly made her way into the light.

“It’s me, Emily,” she said softly. “It’s Helena.”

Helena's hair was jet black and neatly tied up in a bun, strands falling around her face in what seemed to be ordered chaotically. A synthetic layer of skin enveloped potions of her face that attempted to cover the scars and burns along her cheek, evidence of her years of battle. Her slim figure was still as streamlined as Emily remembered, and she seemed untouched by time, not having grown or shrunk at all. Her hazel eyes that could both soothe and pierce a soul almost gave her comfort.

Refusing to let her guard down even to someone as close to them as her, Emily kept her revolver pointed at Helena. She could not trust anyone. Not when it came to her husband. She gritted her teeth, her eyes flickering from Adrian and then back to Helena.

Another man revealed himself, a sight far more alarming. Immediately, Emily snapped her revolver to Jim and fired a shot directly at his thigh.

“FUCK!” he roared, clenching his bleeding thigh in agony. “What the actual fuck was that for?” His voice was filled with rage and confusion, as if he couldn't comprehend why someone would inflict such pain on him.

“Next one’s in your head unless you explain what the fuck is going on!”

“He’s with me,” Helena stepped in, her hand still raised in the air in surrender. “Trust me.”

Emily gritted her teeth. She lowered her revolver ever so slightly, her index finger still caressing the trigger. “Damnit Lena! You’d better have a damn good explanation for what you’ve done to him, or I will shoot you right here!” Emily muttered through gritted teeth. “Both of you!”

“I-I-I don’t know, Em,” she replied. “We just… he needs help.”

Emily switched the exo-suit to sentry mode. "If they try and point a weapon at me, terminate them," she ordered the suit's AI.

Voice recognized. Command accepted.

Emily dropped her weapon, shed her exo-suit off her body and rushed over to Adrian. She checked his pulse. His heart was still beating albeit slower than it should. However, his muscles were tightened, and his cyber eye was pulsing between shades of blue and red.

“What the hell happened to him?” Emily demanded.

“Listen I just came to ta—”

“I wasn’t talking to you, you halfwit,” Emily barked, her eyes flickering to Lena instead.

“Jim and Adrian were talking when he just collapsed. We mentioned Operation Crimson Pulse and that was it. He was knocked out cold,” Lena explained.

Emily’s eyes widened with panic. “You mentioned wh—”

Her sentence was cut short as she felt a constricting grasp around her throat. She gasped for air as Adrian lifted her off the ground, her legs flailing helplessly.

“Emily!” Lena shouted, searching her side for a weapon. "Fuck," she cursed under her breath, realizing that she was unarmed.

Adrian's cyber eye blazed with intensity as he turned towards Jim and Lena. His movements were mechanical, like a programmed robot on a mission.

Jim felt dread wash over him as he fumbled with his gun.

"His eye is fucking with my weapons!" he mumbled dropping his overheated gun to the ground.

He reached for his pocketknife. Emily felt her trachea close up and a numbing sensation trickle throughout her body. Her eyes began to roll back under Adrian's grip.

Jim launched the blade towards the hand gripping Emily's throat.

His grasp persisted despite the blade piercing his arm. In a final effort to free herself, Emily summoned whatever little strength she had and grabbed hold of the knife in Adrian's arm. She twisted it and pushed it further in attempting to scramble the connection of his robotic arm.

He finally released her, his robotic hand incapacitated.

Her lungs gasped for air as she struggled to catch her breath, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Adrian's focus shifted to Jim, a towering figure advancing towards him with cold, lifeless eyes.

“It’s not Adrian! It’s his failsafe!” Emily shouted.

Lena rushed over to Emily to help her to her feet.

Coughing and gasping for air, Emily held onto Lena's arm firmly. “Lena. Go inside the house and find the yellow cushion on the living room couch,” Emily instructed in a croaking voice. “Lift it up and there’s a drawer with a sealed EMP grenade. I need you to get that right now!”

Lena nodded and rushed towards the house. Just as she was about to pass Adrian, she felt a violent tug on her hair, ripping it out of the bun and dragging her directly into one of Adrian’s fists. She buckled to the ground, holding her stomach. A bloody cough made its way up her throat.

“Fuck…” she hissed through the blood.

Before she could recover, Adrian’s foot collided with her face. She rolled backwards. Adrian removed Jim's knife from his hand and walked towards Lena. Her arms trembled but she was too weak to get up.

She lifted her hand to her face as the knife approached her eye. She let out an ear-splitting shriek as the knife pierced cleanly through her open palm, scraping her cheek underneath. The cut was getting deeper and deeper as Adrian continued to put force onto the dagger.

Adrian slid the knife up her palm slicing through it like a butcher and closing in on her eye. Slowly...Painfully... Lena shut her eyes tight.

Adrian's eyes pulsed red and blue, a beeping noise emitting from it. It became more and more frequent as if it was a timer counting down.

Suddenly, the pressure released on Lena's hand. Adrian collapsed with Jim standing right behind him, the EMP armed in his hands. Lena relaxed her arms and lay outstretched on the barren ground.

Emily held a hand around her throat, nursing the marks left from Adrian's grip. "Just in time. Good thing I didn't shoot you." She motioned to Jim to help Lena up. "Let's get you patched up."

***

"What the fuck was that?" Lena asked, wincing as Jim wrapped the bandage around her slit palm. "Failsafe?"

Emily sighed, looking at one of the photo's of her and her husband in the living room. "Arthur placed a failsafe in Adrian's eye directly connecting his heartbeat to the Secronium fused inside his eye. It's sealed in a protective case to prevent the radiation interacting with his flesh. The trigger for the failsafe was "Crimson Pulse". It shuts down his brain and gives full control of his body to the eye which is programmed to eradicate any form of life within a one-mile radius. This usually wouldn't work but around 60% of Adrian's body is robotic.

"The failsafe ends with the Secronium being expunged from his body, peeling away to the protective layer and travelling outwards like a radiative nuke. When that happens, the radiation that would kill ordinary humans shortens his lifespan. Due to the resistance he has built up over the years at the mines, it could range anywhere between ten to fifteen years."

"Woah, woah, woah, woah..." Jim interjected. "Arthur? As in.... King Arthur? The guy on the throne up there?"

"No, Arthur from the spaza shop in South Market," Emily replied sarcastically. "And what exactly are you doing here? Aren't you meant to be laying waste to the Earth doing Duncan's bidding? Isn't that what you Alliance scum do these days."

Jim gritted his teeth. "I just. Want. To talk. Is that too much to ask?"

"Yes!" Emily yelled. "The last time you just wanted to "talk" it ended in you burning down an entire village just to snuff out my husband. I don't even know why Lena is tolerating you."

"I'll have you know it's exceptionally difficult," Lena said. "But he has something you'll want to hear. Also... he saved your life."

"Ughhhh..." Emily groaned. "Fine. Talk."

"Duncan knows," Jim blurted out.

Emily's eyes widened with panic. "If he knows and you're... here..." Suddenly, she lunged foward wrapping both her hands around Jim's neck, clasping it with all her might.

"And you, his prized lapdog, have the audacity to come here?!"

"I...Just...Came to warn...you..." Jim croaked through the choke. "They...think I'm...dead."

Emily released her grip. "What?"

"They think I died in the massacre. I was supposed to track down and dismantle SEKT's remaining forces on Earth but I soon realized they had all dispersed. That's when I decided to exploit my death and run away from all of that bullshit. The last place anyone would look for me... is in the den of my former enemy; Iassor."

"Okay, but why are you here?" Emily reiterated.

"Five weeks ago, a friend of mine informed me about a leak in the royal database caused by a reactivated agent of the Alliance. The missing files included some general military statistics and a document exclusive to the king on Operation Crimson Pulse.

"He didn't get any information on specifics but he told me two things: Adrian is alive and exiled and the circle is limited to his wife and his chief general, Helena Faco and Arthur. So I tracked down Helena..."

"Stalked," she corrected. "For weeks on end."

"Same difference."

"You followed me home and opened with 'Hi'."

Jim shrugged. "What was I supposed to lead with? I thought you'd recognize me."

"'Give me you wallet and link or I'll shoot you' would been more inline with your behaviour," Lena snapped. "And yes, I recognized you...From when you held a gun to my head."

"Well, yah... But I missed..."

"That literally does not make it any better!"

"Enough, you two," Emily said with a sigh, rubbing her forehead. "So, what do you want to know now?"

"I want to know what happened on that airship the night that bomb was dropped," Jim said. "And Adrian is the only one who can give that to me."

Questions:

Been a while since I've done one of these but I've got a few for this chapter.

1. I'm not the best at action scenes so I tend to avoid them but this one I felt was unavoidable. Were you able to follow it? Was there sufficient tension in the scene throughout?

2. Is the little argument between Helena and Jim at the end tonally...off? Does it detract from the scene too much or should I leave it in?

3. Does the information about Adrian's in-built failsafe make sense to you? If not, where did I lose you?


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Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:51 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Reaper! Lim again with a review.

General Impressions

I was excited to see Emily’s point of view this chapter! I liked her snarky lines and how she seems just so done with Jim’s appearance. Adrian’s ‘failsafe’ activating was a surprise to me. I thought he would just fall unconscious and be kidnapped by Jim and Helena, but this is an unexpected turn of events. It’s a good thing Emily woke up in time, otherwise the failsafe would have probably gone all the way. Additionally, with the scenes in Iassor and now this ‘failsafe’ in Adrian’s suit, Arthur is being built up to be a pretty ruthless person. I wonder if there’s even more history between Adrian and Arthur, because how else would Arthur have had a hand in making his suit?

Action Scene

I thought the action scene had plenty of tension, because the characters genuinely seem to be in danger. Adrian while in his ‘failsafe’ mode seems to be a threat because he grabs hold of one of the characters right away and he clearly doesn’t recognize Emily. He also comes across as attacking very suddenly to me, kind of like a horror movie antagonist.

Jim secretly running off into the house and then reappearing with the EMP is a cool idea. I did have some trouble following Jim’s movement in that scene, though.

Adrian's focus shifted to Jim, a towering figure advancing towards him with cold, lifeless eyes.

This made me think he was going to attack Jim next. But instead, he attacks Helena because Helena runs past him. In that whole sequence it’s like Jim just magically disappeared from the scene, so his reappearance also felt a bit disorienting. I think I would feel differently if there was a line describing him running towards the house around the same time as Helena tries doing that?

Dialogue

Jim and Helena’s conversation does seem like a tonal shift away from the lines that precede it immediately:
"He didn't get any information on specifics but he told me two things: Adrian is alive and exiled and the circle is limited to his wife and his chief general, Helena Faco and Arthur. So I tracked down Helena..."

^Jim’s tone comes across as quite serious here, whereas Helena’s interruption makes it somewhat more jokey (even though from the content alone it does look like he really gave her a scare ^^’).

I think the information given in the conversation helps contextualise how the two of them ended up here, though. Maybe it would be a good thing to have in a different position in the scene? In that same scene, I liked the jokier or snarkier parts of the dialogue that happened early one, before Jim starts explaining himself– like this one!
"Woah, woah, woah, woah..." Jim interjected. "Arthur? As in.... King Arthur? The guy on the throne up there?"
"No, Arthur from the spaza shop in South Market," Emily replied sarcastically.


Failsafe Explanation

From what I understood, the failsafe seems to mainly damage people standing around Adrian (“eradicate any form of life within a one-mile radius.”) rather than Adrian himself, but Adrian is adversely affected by its use (“the radiation that would kill ordinary humans shortens his lifespan”). Did I get that right?

I thought I understood the gist of it, and it seems to imply more animosity between the King and Adrian, since I highly doubt Adrian wanted such a failsafe implanted. I think I mainly had trouble visualizing what such a failsafe would look like. Emily says it connects “heartbeat” to eye, and that it also has a “protective layer”. Would that look something like a cord or wire going from eye to heart (or artery)? That’s what I’m imagining at the moment.

It is an interesting aspect to add to Adrian’s character, though, and I wonder if he’ll say anything about it when he wakes up.

Overall

I enjoyed reading this chapter, especially with the dynamics between Emily, Helena and Jim. The development of the Secronium lore here is also interesting to read since it (and cybernetic eyes) are so central to the main story.

Let me know if you’d like more feedback on something specific!
-Lim




VengefulReaper says...


Thanks for the review, Lim!

Yeah, I am going to rework the explanation of Adrian's failsafe so it's a little more understandable but you got the gist of it. I'll also add a few sentences in to contexualize Jim's position in the battle, so thanks for pointing it out.

-Reaper



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Fri Dec 08, 2023 12:13 am
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Rose wrote a review...



’Tis the Season!



Amidst the twinkling lights of my festive rose garden, I spy with my little eye...

Something incredibly intriguing; another chapter of the Interlude titled “Crimson Pulse”".

Alright, no more delays! Let’s put these review skillz into action, shall we?

Image

I. I'm not the best at action scenes so I tend to avoid them but this one I felt was unavoidable. Were you able to follow it? Was there sufficient tension in the scene throughout?
'Kay, let's be real, action scenes are difficult to write, but I think you did an awesome job. To be honest, I really enjoyed reading this chapter, everything seemed to fall in the perfect place. And everything was included, the suspense, tension, and a slight hint of humour which I always seem to find in your chapters.

Alrighty, let's rewind for a moment.

You perfectly described the scene where Emily discovers the "two shadowy figures", her reaction was predictable but still intriguing to read. And as we get closer to the part where Adrian goes in full robot mode, the paragraphs become shorter and the lines more expressive and suspenseful. It creates just the right pacing for an action scene while maintaining the suspense.

Adrian's actions make the scene even more captivating, I think that both Adrian's and Emily's character have made some developments. Though Emily, Helena and Jim have all suffered from some injuries, they seemed perfectly fine at the end, it did blur the realistic side of the story a bit.


II. Is the little argument between Helena and Jim at the end totally...off? Does it detract from the scene too much or should I leave it in?
Well, it does add to the humour, it definitely does. I did kind of oversee it in the beginning due to the fact that I didn't know who was talking. I thought it was Emily, as she already kind of wanted to kill Jim, but after reading it again I noticed that it was Helena. It becomes clear that Jim has upset a lot of people and is probably on the kill-list of, well, almost everyone xD.
So perhaps you could consider making it a bit more obvious that it was Helena he was arguing with now, but other that that, I believe that the scene was just fine.


III. Does the information about Adrian's in-built failsafe make sense to you? If not, where did I lose you?

Emily sighed, looking at one of the photo's of her and her husband in the living room. "Arthur placed a failsafe in Adrian's eye directly connecting his heartbeat to the Secronium fused inside his eye. It's sealed in a protective case to prevent the radiation interacting with his flesh. The trigger for the failsafe was "Crimson Pulse". It shuts down his brain and gives full control of his body to the eye which is programmed to eradicate any form of life within a one-mile radius. This usually wouldn't work but around 60% of Adrian's body is robotic.

"The failsafe ends with the Secronium being expunged from his body, peeling away to the protective layer and travelling outwards like a radiative nuke. When that happens, the radiation that would kill ordinary humans shortens his lifespan. Due to the resistance he has built up over the years at the mines, it could range anywhere between ten to fifteen years."


So, there are two paragraphs in which you explain his failsafe, I understood the first one completely but you lost me at the second one. I'm not quite sure if I understand the whole process of the radiative nuke turning into dangerous radiation.
And is Adrian then sort of immune against radiation? Also, does this happen every time that Adrian's failsafe takes control?

And maybe to avoid long pieces of monologues, you could add some lines of Jim or Helena who ask questions and Emily explains how his failsafe works by answering their questions.
But Emily seems really tense and irritated by Jim at that moment, so I completely understand if you wouldn't want them to interrupt her while talking, especially Jim, if he wants to avoid ending up with a bullet in his brain.

IV. Merry Conclusion☃️
Everything in all and all in everything, this is one of my absolute favourite chapters and I would gladly read it all over again. Adrian's past is just really intriguing and the Crimson Pulse definitely piqued my interest, I wonder if there is more to that operation than just a name..

Happy Holidays!🎄

That's it, that's all.
Hoping the review has been of value to you!

With Rose-tinted regards!




VengefulReaper says...


Hi Rose. Thanks for the review!

I'll have to tweak the explanation for the failsafe. Just to address your questions:
Yes, he has radiation resistance...not full immunity. Hence why radiation that would kill normal people instantly only shortens his lifespan (same reason Ethan is dying due to exposure to secronium in the main plot).

Yes, it triggers every time the failsafe triggers. Adrian walks around with Secronium inside him. It fuels his eye that controls his body. When the failsafe ends it just explodes inside him releasing radiation. I'll take the whole "shedding the external coating" stuff out because I feel like that's where the confusion kinda happens.



Rose says...


Thanks for clearing that up! Oh and I forgot to mention, it's a really good twist, it definitely creates more space for conflict and in this case an opportunity to show the badass side of Emily!




I think the best thing about making it into the quote generator is when nobody tells you, so one day you're just scrolling and voila, some phenomenally inane thing that crawled out of your dying synapses and immediately regretted being born the second it made contact with the air has been archived for all time. Or worse, a remark of only average inanity. Never tell me when you've put me in the generator. Pride-tinged regret just doesn't taste the same without the spice of surprise.
— SirenCymbaline