The Demon's Clockwork Heart Chapter 8: Minotaur


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[CATHERINE DOUGLAS. Searchlight, Mojave Wilderness, United States of America. Tuesday 15th of June, 1880 Gregorian Calendar].

Catherine Douglas grabbed a leather trench coat from a coat stand near the jail's entrance. She put it on to cover the silvery prosthetics which functioned as replacements for her arms.
The specially designed limbs allowed her to more easily regulate her powers. They had been implanted to replace her original biological arms, which she had accidently destroyed when her power first manifested. As useful as they were, Catherine considered the silvery prosthetics as ugly. Partially visible gears whirred whenever she made large movements, giving her the appearance of machine rather than a woman. Worse still, they reminded her of that day her Gift had first manifested.
Her powers had not only claimed her arms, they had also claimed the life of her fiancé. A gentle artist, wise beyond his years. When he saw her arms suddenly catch fire, he didn't run away. Instead he rushed to her. Trying to smother the flames with a thick curtain. He was burned to death for his troubles, and Catherine was left with a pair of silver arms.
Stupid man, Catherine sighed to herself. Stupid, noble, perfect man.
Catherine disentangled herself from her musings as she spotted movement from the post office across the road. She couldn't make out much detail, but she was sure that it was humanoid in shape.
She prepared to investigate but stopped at the approach of Corporal Mason.
"Corporal Mason," Catherine greeted him.
"Please call me Morris," he replied.
"Of course," Catherine smiled.
Catherine had undergone psychological training with the Coalition of Humanity. So, she was aware that the corporal was a deeply calculating individual. He had only started using first names after their recon group of four had been formed. This was specifically to improve team bonding.
The corporal had later used another trick. Getting Cain to recount the potential events that occurred at the jail. This not only improved the young man's self-confidence, but also encouraged him to focus on observations rather than the fear he was probably feeling. Furthermore, it had improved Olivia's estimation of Cain, who she had previously considered a non-military outsider.
"Anything to report?" asked Morris.
"I saw movement at the post office," confirmed Catherine.
"We'll investigate it," stated Morris. "But first I'm going to update Fort Las Vegas. The Golden Dove Bordello has nine survivors. They told me that this town was attacked by the corpse demons. Thankfully the demon hoard was led away by their marshal. That was around two hours ago. They don't have any fighters among them. So, we'll have to escort them back to the battle wagon."
"Then we all head back to Fort Las Vegas?" inquired Catherine.
"Not much choice at this point," admitted Morris. "These corpse demons reach as far south-east as the Mohave Lake Settlement which is almost twenty miles away. Plus, we encountered them at least ten miles north of here. They're now too widely spread for our small group to pinpoint an origin location."
"You should say thirty kilometres and fifteen kilometres," teased Catherine. "This is a Coalition investigation, so we should use the correct metric measurements and not that outdated imperial nonsense."
"Apologies," smiled Morris. "Now that we've clarified that up. I'll go make my report. Then we'll check the post office, before heading back to meet up with Cain and Olivia at the Golden Dove Bordello."
Catherine agreed and waited for Morris to finish his report. The duo then headed for the post office. One there, they encountered two bodies which had had their throats cut and been left to bleed out. Further searching uncovered a few bloody footprints leaving through the back of the post office. Plus, a telephone cord which had been cut in a similar way to that which they had spotted at the railway station.
"Something is trying to isolate the town," deduced Morris. "Could mean the demons are returning. We should get back to Cain and Olivia. We need to evacuate the civilians."
The duo quickly made their way back to the brothel's back door, which was once again locked.
"It's Corporal Mason," Morris whispered.
The door was unlocked by an older man, behind whom stood a young woman. Both were armed with pistols.
"This is Special Agent Douglas," Morris introduced Catherine.
The man simply nodded his head.
"Is it suddenly getting cold?" Morris shivered.
He blew into his hands to warm them up. Having numb fingers was a death sentence for a gunfighter.
"Do you mind if I eat that?" Catherine pointed to a newly baked loaf of bread behind the young women.
The woman merely shrugged her shoulders, which Catherine took as a yes.
Catherine walked to grab the loaf of bread. As soon she was behind the duo, she activated the pair of hidden blades, contained in the underside of her mechanical forearms. Then stabbed into the necks of the two silent strangers. Before slicing down and opening her targets from neck to hip.
The old man and young woman, collapsed without uttering a sound.
"They were demons?" asked Morris.
"Yes," Catherine affirmed.
Her Gift was the power to absorb heat from the surrounding environment. The ability to generate flames, was simply a side effect, caused by the need to expel this absorbed thermal energy. Her prosthetic limbs allowed her to fine tune this release or even store it for a period of time.
She had used her ability to greatly lower the temperature of the kitchen. Yet neither of the silent pair had made any comment. More significantly, neither of them produced the tell-tale foggy condensation that occurred when a person breathed into cold air.
"You go to the roof to get Cain," said Morris. "I'll go the madam's room and find Olivia."
The duo raced into the main room and then up the stairs to the second floor. Morris continued down the hallway. While Catherine exited to the large second storey balcony. She immediately spotted small blood stains tracking from the window and along the balcony. The blood trail continued onto the roof and ended at a large puddle of blood. Beside this stain was Cain's rocket maul.
A massive bull-headed demon announced its arrival and began charging towards the brothel. Known as a minotaur, the four meter tall monster possessed armour piercing horns. While its head, body and limbs were covered in steel like black hairs that deflected most bullets and blades.
A shotgun slug was fired from a second-floor window and directly at the minotaur's face. The demon barely flinched before ramming itself into the brothel. It trampled through the whole structure before crashing out the other side.
Catherine grabbed the rocket maul as she felt the building start to shake beneath her. She ran with all her might and launched herself at the minotaur. Using the momentum of her leap, she swung the rocket maul at the back of the minotaur's skull. Then activated the weapon's rear head, air rocket.
"Grr…." Catherine gritted her teeth at the sudden heaviness of the rocket maul.
She hadn't expected the weapon to have such a kick. She was unable to fully control the rocket maul and it struck off target. Smashing into the minotaur's left shoulder instead of its skull.
Catherine fell backwards. A hand grabbed her by the nape of her trench coat. She was relieved when Morris pulled her up, but annoyed at having lost hold of the rocket maul.
Morris fired a shotgun slug into the gaping shoulder wound which Catherine had opened.
"Keep its attention on us," commanded Morris.
Catherine wanted to tell the corporal that the Minotaur's weakness was its testicle and it would be impossible to strike them from the second floor. However, she bit her tongue and followed his orders. She knew that the corporal was the sort of man who already had a plan.
Blam! Blam!
The duo fired shotgun slugs at the minotaur, as it turned to face them.
The demon swung its right arm. Sweeping across the balcony they were on. The duo leaped through the large open windows to avoid the attack.
"Run!" Catherine ordered Morris.
The corporal did as told, trusting in his companion's unsaid plan.
"Burn!" Catherine screamed.
Jets of intense flame shot forth from the primary release vents in her palms.
"Roar!" the minotaur roared back as its eyes began to melt under the extreme heat.
Catherine continued her fiery onslaught.
The minotaur raised its right hand to protect its face. Even taking a step back from the intense flames which were being wielded against it.
A thunderous smash rung out.
"Roar!" the minotaur gave one more roar, this time in clear pain, before falling backwards.
Catherine took three deep breaths to compose herself. Then waved at the large, dark male who had inflicted the crippling crotch smash on the minotaur. She navigated her way down the badly damaged building an met up with Morris and their new ally.
"Special Agent Catherine Douglas," Morris made introductions. "This is Foreman John Henry who I ran into a few moments before the minotaur's attack."
"Pleasure to meet to you," smiled Catherine. "You look worse than I feel."
The towering man before her had dozens of bruises and cuts. The left side of his face was so badly swollen that he could a barely look out of that eye. Worse still, his right shoulder was at angle that indicated a dislocation.
"I escaped from their lair," said John, as Morris helped him reset his shoulder.
"You know where these corpse demons came from?" asked Morris.
The large man nodded his head. Then quickly summarised his escape, including narrating the conversation he had with the blonde demon woman. He also informed them that he had already told all of this to Fort Las Vegas. Furthermore, it had been him that had cut the phone lines fearing that the demons would use them to spread misinformation.
"Why didn't the fort tell us you were here?" asked Catherine. "We called them as well, but they never mentioned you."
"They probably wanted to keep us unaware of each other," said Morris. "In case one or either of our teams had already been compromised."
"Makes sense," agreed Catherine. "So, what now?"
"We return to the battle wagon and head for the lair," Morris instructed. "Unfortunately, the railway line doesn't currently extend all the way to the Colorado River. It'll be a four mile… I meant, seven kilometre walk from the battlewagon to the demon lair."
"You're learning," Catherine teased the corporal. "Also, I couldn't find Cain's body. They must have taken him away."
"Same with Olivia," replied Morris.
"Cain?" queried John. "As in Lu Cain?"
"Yes," confirmed Morris. "I tell you on the way back to the battle wagon. I don't think we need to be as quite as we were coming into Searchlight. Pretty sure the enemy already knows we're here."
The two men started heading out of town, while Morris recounted the events thus far for John. Catherine glanced at the massive corpse of the minotaur. She quickly sliced both its femoral arteries to bleed it out and stop any potential resurrection. Then headed to join her companions.
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