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A Devil's Chronicle

A Devil's Chronicle

Vorschau lesen

A Devil's Chronicle

Länge:
398 Seiten
6 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Aug 29, 2013
ISBN:
9780992003302
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

When good people are powerless to stop a terrible evil, it will take a devil to save us all.

In the mid-21st Century, a global conflict known as the Shadow War escalated between the ruling Shadow Corps and a corrupt World Parliament until both sides were in defeat. Since then, Humanity celebrated 300 years of peace until the arrival of an alien scourge that exterminated life on Earth. All but one.

The survivor is Mephisto, the former leader of the Shadow Corps secretly living in exile. Unable to stop the apocalypse, he instead devises a plan to lure the alien threat back to the only point in history with a chance – the onset of the Shadow War.

Now the master of time must convince the Shadow Corps to collaborate with its enemies even as they plot against each other. Deception, betrayal and vengeance abound in a gambit where failure guarantees the extinction of mankind and success could mean trading one evil for another

Author, Corin Hamilton, debuts a provocative tale of science-fiction that contorts a framework of fantasy with the dark psychologies of a man-turned-devil and other characters irreversibly altered by technology and ultimate power.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Aug 29, 2013
ISBN:
9780992003302
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Thank you for reading my work. I appreciate your interest and I hope that you have been thoroughly entertained with the fruits of my twisted imagination. Please leave a review.


Buchvorschau

A Devil's Chronicle - Corin Hamilton

by Corin Hamilton

I have no one to blame but myself and everyone to thank otherwise, especially my mom, Laura, Travis, Ryan, W.B.

and Loki

A Devil’s Chronicle

Copyright © 2013 by Corin Hamilton.

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9920033-0-2

Original cover design by Ivan Terzic

Formatting by Streetlight Graphics

Albert Einstein’s quote is an excerpt from his letter of condolence to Vero Besso and Bice Rusconi, March 21, 1955. Its translation and written permission for use by Corin Hamilton was provided by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your preferred eBook vendor website and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Interrupted in the stillness of a winter night, waxy green pine needles were shaken from branches to drop onto the blanket of snow covering a forest floor. The moon watched from behind rolling clouds as fresh flakes drifted lackadaisically between ancient trees that swayed together in unison. It was a peaceful facade made poetically out of place amidst the surrounding devastation of a bloodied battlefield.

At its heart was the command post: a fortified bunker built with one end above frozen ground and the other below. Columns of iron and concrete held back the thunder of war as the lights in-between flickered like echoes to every explosion. Inside, two warriors led a platoon of soldiers that huddled together in wait. Adding to the gloom, a low winding hum from underfoot signaled that the energy shield had just failed.

Standing at its breach was the Demon; a young woman dressed in a charcoal-colored uniform adorned with light armor that accentuated her thin muscular frame. Her golden hair, damp from snow, hung defiantly over piercing eyes that studied the battle. She was unwavering against the tension and ready with fixed black swords emanating from her delicate wrists. She was beautiful, unyielding, and poised to kill any who dare enter.

Behind the Demon was a young man brandishing a long, metal war hammer. Strapped across his torso was an assortment of pistols and knives adding girth and threat to his posture. He trembled, both cold and fearful, as his stare set nervously upon the Demon until an explosion too close to ignore drew his attention to the battlefield. He squinted to see better, which was nearly impossible as the darkness gave way to flashes of blinding light every few seconds. He could only trust his ears and his whole body shook in his doubt. He didn’t belong and knew he would die here; it was only a matter of time.

Do you see? she asked, perfectly calm.

I can’t see a damn thing. What’s happening? he shouted, provoked by her steadiness.

She pointed a sword to the sky. He cannot hold them back. They’re coming.

Prepare yourselves! the out-of-place warrior ordered to the troops at his rear, trying to rally his own nerve. We’re about to test our mettle!

Scoffed murmurs were covered by the cocking of rifles as distant war cries outside grew louder, proving that the enemy had broken through. The young warrior gripped his hammer tight now as panic gnawed the edges of his mind.

The Demon, alert to her keen instincts, stabbed a shadowy figure that appeared suddenly through its neck with uncanny accuracy. It was a large beast bred for war that wore alien armor decorated only by melting snowflakes and a helmet which left narrow lips over barred, jagged teeth visible. It seemed to have no eyes and was as much a curiosity to behold as a monster to be feared. Withdrawing her sword, the brute hesitated and fell dead across the threshold.

Two more enemy soldiers rushed in, leaping over the corpse of the first. The Demon swung high, decapitating one and sending its head rolling to the young warrior’s feet. A pale gasp escaped his lips before he recomposed himself, witness to her efficient disposal of the other. Both swords sliced in bloodied concert and then were still as she stepped gracefully aside to reposition.

A fourth unexpectedly burst past her only to have its skull crushed against the wall by the force of a war hammer in purpose. Out of reflex, the trooper discharged its weapon that blasted a small crater into the concrete opposite the surprised warrior. Silence reigned as everyone examined the fearsome result.

Their quiet deliberation was interrupted by more monsters trying to get in. The Demon danced to the song of her swords as she slay enemy after enemy while the emboldened young warrior thrust his hammer forward to halt the advancement of invaders. His powerful blows sent them falling back through the entrance while those that made it within were gunned down by the platoon soldiers.

Unable to keep pace with the escalating attacks, the young warrior pulled a pistol from the holster on his hip. He examined the cold, foreign piece in his hand; it felt strange that he held such a thing. Putting his doubts aside, he fired from around the corner of the entrance but it wasn’t long before his attention was again drawn out to the battlefield. As he looked through the darkness and his eyes finally focused – time slowed.

Battling in the midst of the encroaching slave army were two women leaping high and dodging fast. Also near to them was a giant of a man engaging with a slurry of heavy weapons fire.

Turning his gaze upward through the chaos of smoke and fire, he saw him: the very devil that started this war and the reason the young warrior now found himself in peril. Floating high above and outlined by the shrouded light of the moon was Mephisto raining down his own barrage of devastation upon the berserk hordes scrambling to take the command post.

Now it was Mephisto that strategically examined the battle. Watching through glowing yellow eyes as the others desperately defended the bunker, he knew it would soon be lost. Rather than continue, he ceased his assault to retreat into the darkness above.

"Curse that coward! screeched the Demon pushing past the monsters. Her swords disappeared as expansive black wings burst from her back, I will serve that treacherous son-of-a-bitch to these dogs myself!"

Don’t leave! pleaded the young warrior to her. "I won’t make it without you! Please, Carol!"

The Demon stepped back from incoming fire and hesitantly folded her wings in pause. A subtle growl escaped her throat before the wings were reshaped into swords once more. She instead unleashed her wrath upon the advancing enemy; Mephisto’s desertion fueled her rage.

The hall of the bunker was choked with the dead of enemies and allies alike with a mixture of spilled blood pooled around the boots of the living. It was evident that the structure was badly damaged as the concrete crumbled, narrowing the entryway further. It would soon be necessary to collapse the command post. Once this occurred there would be no safety in the open and their advantage lost. Better this than allow the enemy to reach its depths and permanently disable the energy shield. It was also for this reason the slave troops charged forward to overtake it with their numbers instead of superior firepower.

Wondering where they would retreat to, the young warrior searched the battlefield for another silhouette. He found her at the other end viciously tearing the monsters asunder with only her bare hands. She was engrossed in the glory of murder by a bloodlust that was both frightening and unimaginable to him; it was madness.

He watched in solemn captivation until the Demon crossed his view and then couldn’t help but compare the two women. Both were innocent victims remade into powerful killers against their wishes. But the Demon was sanely dispassionate in her application of lethal techniques, unlike the other woman that madly reveled in merciless brutality.

They were like opposite sides of some unlucky penny, he thought as a lingering feeling rose from the pit of his stomach to break upon his heavy heart. He felt remorse for that lone woman in the darkness; for just as Mephisto was to blame for his woeful predicament, he knew to his shame that he was the cause of hers.

Chapter 2

-----------------------------------

Last Call, Lex

"You’re drinking… again."

I’ve only had a couple of beers, he lied as he rose from a patio chair on the balcony outside their main-floor apartment to greet her and then remembered the cigarette that burned between his yellow fingers. He dropped it into a stained glass half full of brown water that was thick as mud with ash and discarded butts before entering through the sliding glass doors to the living room.

I’m sick and tired of coming home to the same thing, Lex. You didn’t do anything that I asked you to do. She nibbled on her index finger while surveying the dirty kitchen. Her two cats sniffed with curious displeasure at her uniform pant legs perfumed with a multitude of animal scents. She was an attractive young woman with flaxen hair that hung just above her tense shoulders. Holding back the rest of the same arguments she instead scooped up her pets to retreat into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Willow, wait…

Leave me alone, she demanded from behind the door as he unsteadily reached for the knob. It flung open instead as she glared angrily into his fluttering eyes. Her own eyes were pink with welling tears. We had a date tonight. Did you forget about that too?

His reply spilled from his mouth without an anchor of thought. We can still go out. We’ll do whatever you like.

I don’t want to go anywhere with you now. She shoved past and went down the hallway to the bathroom with both cats cradled in her arms.

What is your problem? Every time I so much as touch a beer, you throw a fit.

Behind the locked door, the sound of running bath water filled the tense space between them as he listened for the stifled sobs from her small, soft lips. Frustrated, he returned to the patio and pulled another beer from the box on the ground as he muttered replies-too-late, aware that he would soon have to stop drinking to appease her. Swallowing a mouthful of bitter relief, he sat in uneasy contemplation while picking at the label moistened with condensation from the side of the green bottle.

It was a previous time for this young warrior, one before the hand of Destiny was to lay itself upon his shoulder. He was just an ordinary man lost in the sea of his unrealized potential. Overweight and unkempt with disheveled brown hair, and often dressed only in loose workout attire as he toiled at his computer from home. He was nothing special and the only person that believed otherwise was beginning to change her mind.

Recently the fighting between the couple had become less frequent but lasting longer. There was often no resolution and more time between make-ups. When it was good, it was great. But when it was bad…

They’d met two years before in a biology class at the University. Willow refused to dissect a fetal pig and was ejected from the lesson. Lex, made nauseous by the trays being passed around, left for some water and met her in the hall. She raged against the closed door to the lab while he agreed, quite insistently, that cutting up a baby animal was so barbaric that it made him physically ill; but the truth is that he was merely squeamish.

Bursting back into the lab, they announced together that they were dropping the class in protest. This was an easy choice for Lex since he was a computer major but for Willow it meant abandoning her lifetime dream of being a veterinarian. Nonetheless, they decided it must be kismet and after a few weeks they were professing their undying love for one another.

That was a happier time. His hands trembled as he stared into the bottle nestled in his lap beneath the frosted glass tabletop. Pulling another cigarette from his pack with numb fingers, he felt a tightening in his throat as he realized that this fight was different: it was missing the hurtful words and deceptions that had become commonplace.

Why don’t you just go out and leave me alone? Willow’s voice cracked as she collected the portable phone from its stand. She was wrapped in her pink bathrobe and moving swiftly to avoid him. Before Lex could utter a word she was already locked away in her sanctuary once more.

Disgruntled, he snatched his wallet and cell phone from atop the workstation in the corner. The heavy glass door slammed with a loud shush behind him as he sucked a final drag from the cigarette into his lungs and then flicked it across the parking lot in retaliation for society’s rules, rituals and expectations; he wasn’t certain why he was angry, but he was.

He slowed his pace for an instant while he texted: "Meet at Lion". Squeezing the phone in his hand he felt the emptiness of exile fill him. The urge to run on all fours was building between his muscles; an almost primal instinct that he had to restrain, opting instead to quicken his pace.

I’m so fucking sick of this shit too! he shouted back before he glanced at the flashing screen of his phone to the reply that waited.

" :) !!! "

* * *

He sat in the garden of the pub within his own sanctuary that he frequented too often. There he hid and reflected on his failures until the server appeared in the light of the open door with a pitcher of dark ale, a shooter of Double Jack and two empty glasses balanced neatly upon a tray.

Please tell me you’re alone tonight, she said dryly, turning to leave.

You brought two glasses so you already know. Lex poured the ale into a glass and then swallowed the shot as he waited for the thick foam head to dissipate. He looked around and took in the loneliness of his reprieve before reaching for his cold measure of comfort and acceptance. The ale went down bitter and uneasy; his head was already swimming from an afternoon of drinking. He observed a small waterfall and the artificial pond, bubbling next to his lopsided table. It was a pleasing simulation of a rainforest between propane heater lamps and misting humidity. It was designed to be a peaceful setting, yet it didn’t give him any. He couldn’t find his calm center; his mind was a tempest.

He thought back to a few nights before when they were lying together on the sofa watching a movie, cuddling as she fell asleep in his arms. He remembered her soft warmth and was reminded of other times on that lumpy, old sofa, bicycling their feet against each other. Invariably she’d let her foot slip and find its way to his crotch. It never really hurt but he’d always play it up to make her laugh.

He stoically watched the tiny bubbles surface and wondered if maybe he should quit drinking so much. Maybe his life would be easier if he didn’t need to escape to the very thing that caused so much pain and difficulty in the first place. Perhaps, he thought, he could get back into shape and direct his energy into coding his own computer programs instead of compiling random snippets for an internet company with no appreciation for his immeasurable talent. More importantly, maybe Willow would be happy again. Maybe she’d stop nagging him about every little thing, crying behind the bathroom door, silently hating him as her life slipped away. He wondered these things, as he always did before, but never did he change despite.

Fighting with Willow again, hey? laughed a tall, slender young man with combed dark hair as he approached the table, knowing where to find Lex. His face was thin and good looking, and he was well groomed in his designer jeans and coat. He pulled back a chair to seat himself as he scanned the interior of the pub to a pair of women at a table to see if they were looking in his direction.

Oh, you know, Lex was smug, she hates it when I scheme.

But your nefarious side is your best side!

Tim’s company wasn’t what he wanted tonight; he knew that Tim wouldn’t give him any advice that would be even remotely useful. However, distraction was still better than drinking alone as his mind churned in all the wrong directions.

Well, let’s get shit-faced and you can tell someone else all about it, Tim half-joked while pouring a swallow of beer into the second glass to savor before the server returned with his usual order of double rye and coke. He winked almost cruelly at her as she set his drinks down. Thanks darling, I feel frisky tonight.

Darling? Lex scoffed at this mock term of endearment. Tim was just like his father: a product of generations of men taught to devalue women. He leaned towards Tim as the server hastily left earshot, She hates you. You know that, right?

Nah. She misses me, that’s all. Tim was being coy as he sipped dignifiedly from the thin red straw poised between the ice cubes of his glass.

Missed you with her car maybe, Lex snorted.

Oh man, that was bad! You are really off your game tonight or you meant it just to be a dick.

He knew Tim was right. Lex was usually pretty quick with a witty remark but he wasn’t feeling very humorous this evening; his mind was still on Willow. Why do I tell you my problems anyway? You’re the biggest womanizer in this sorry city. You don’t know anything about love or relationships.

True, but I know more than you obviously.

You think so?

I know so. Look, the women in this sorry town know what I am and still they want me. Maybe they think they can change me but they have nobody to blame but themselves when it doesn’t happen. I make no apologies for that.

How does that make you an expert on love? Lex remained doubtful as he poured another sleeve of beer.

I don’t pretend to be anything else. I don’t force myself to fit into a relationship because that won’t work. I know that love happens, you don’t make it.

So you think you’re an expert because you know what you’re not supposed to do?

Tim smiled knowing he’d drawn Lex in. "That, and I know it’s all chemicals in our heads anyway."

Predictably, Lex groaned in disappointment. This was an old argument between them. Tim would insist that it was unnatural for humans to pair-bond as females typically release a single egg every cycle while males produce hundreds of millions of sperm daily, proven to be more competitive when mixed with sperm from other men. Lex referred to this as Tim’s theory of the blow-and-go evolution of the man-whore. He would counter with the female evolution from an estrous cycle to the menstrual cycle to dispute Tim’s remnants of early human development.

And ultimately, they would never agree to disagree and carry on with other arguments instead. That’s how it was between them: constant arguing because that is what they enjoyed, despite driving most people away from their company. Willow was no exception as she avoided spending time around the two friends.

The streetlights outside the walls of the garden awoke, buzzing as their putrid glow encroached on the private garden. Tim came and went, back and forth, chatting with any girl that appeared at the bar. Lex watched as he casually played with his cell phone while gregariously flirting. He knew Tim was actually stealing their phone numbers. It was amusing at first but eventually began to annoy him. Tim was cheating his way to happiness while he suffered in honesty.

He went from being angry to feeling guilty for meeting Willow under similar deceptive circumstances. His mind spun around and around in different emotional states. When he was alone, he would whisper quietly into his beer, pretending that he was having a conversation with her until he finally settled on apologizing and making good on the same old promises.

* * *

Stumbling outside into the empty parking lot, they laughed at the server’s outburst as she rejected Tim’s late advance. Tim reached into his jacket pocket for a joint. Let’s go to the Cheetah. They’re still serving for another hour, he pleaded as he inhaled deeply and held his breath before exhaling the acrid smoke.

I can’t drink anymore. I’m all done in and going to bed.

You know Selene will be there, Tim taunted, exploiting Lex’s weakness for the women of his past.

Just leave Selene alone, would ya? Why can’t you just call some of those girls? I saw you steal their digits.

Tim inhaled while considering the idea. He was currently in his third year of engineering. He was also well ahead of his peers, considering his studies to be more of a joke than a challenge as he possessed an exceptional talent for reverse-engineering and improving any device that crossed his hands. His phone was just one example: he’d cleverly crafted an internal antenna that provided him with more than just increased reception. With an app that Lex hacked for it, he could clone any mobile within a few feet, copying personal data. With that information, Tim would investigate the intoxicated women and begin his con game to further his sexual conquests.

Do you want to split a cab at least? You’ll never make it up the hill in your condition.

What I lack in fitness I make up for in denial.

Oh, for fuck sake, Tim blew the bluish smoke into Lex’s face to taunt him. Why don’t you just leave her? You can crash at my place tonight and give her time to cool off.

No thanks. Lex’s voice trailed off as he stumbled to evade the stench before heading home. Your place smells like marijuana and sadness.

Yeah, whatever, Tim muttered as he produced his phone to explore other possibilities.

* * *

The night was chilly and the streets were quiet. The city slept as he fought his way up the hill to a schoolyard that was both a shortcut home and a refuge where he felt he could finally loose his anger and frustration. The incline of the modest hill had left him short of breath as he leaned against the wire fence while pulling the front of his track pants down to piss. The sky was heavy with drifting cloud cover, creating a darkness that promised to isolate him. A single security lamp fixed to the side of the school flickered and hummed in the distance as it illuminated the attached playground in dull tints of amber. Shaking himself off, he pressed on; shuffling his feet through the grass as he went. His jumbled thoughts began to take volume in his throat.

Why… WHY? Lex demanded, shouting at the cruel Gods above that delighted in tormenting him. Warm tears streamed down his cold cheeks as he clenched his fists. He could contain himself no longer as his intoxicated pain demanded expression. He beat his fist against his thigh as he dropped his head in defeat; his body heaved as he cried in anguish for his failure. He was afraid of losing her and knew that if he couldn’t find a way to make her love him again that it would soon be too late.

Because Life is unfair, answered a soft voice of an unseen stranger, "that is why."

Startled, Lex scanned about until he located a peculiar shadow on the ground some distance ahead. Focusing his eyes, he made out a transient by his layers of tattered and dirty clothing. He was attentively lying on his side in the grass while supporting his head on his arm.

Lex relaxed as the initial embarrassment left him. You know about women, huh?

No. If I knew anything about women, I wouldn’t be here. What I said was: Life is unfair.

Well, my problem is with women… one woman anyway, Lex conceded as he erased the tears with the back of his hand.

No, it’s not. Your only problem is with Life and how you choose to live it. Your difference with one woman is just a symptom of that difficulty.

I don’t think you—

Allow me to explain it then: you’re drunk. A piss-poor solution to your current problem, wouldn’t you agree? So if you live your life piss-poorly and resort to escaping the mounting problems created by piss-poor solutions, it eventually filters into your relationship and affects your woman. You force her to carry you and your problems. Do you understand? Quite simply, it isn’t that she doesn’t love you, it’s that you make yourself too hard to keep loving.

The stranger’s philosophy resonated through Lex’s mind with curiously perfect sense. I guess so… but your sermon is too late.

That’s because Life is unfair. You must either accept this truth and change, or suffer the consequences until you do.

"I hate my life, Lex whispered, lighting a cigarette for himself before offering one to his sagely companion. I wish I could do something else."

No, thank you, replied the stranger, shaking his head. What else would you do, since you haven’t done anything with the opportunities you have?

This had long been Lex’s obstacle. He had considered doing something else; he’d reasoned it through a thousand times. He wanted to be somebody or to create something, but he could never come to any conclusion as to what that might be. He had no direction; he floated in a sea of opportunity but never dared to swim.

I don’t know, dude. I just feel like I was meant for something, you know?

I do.

I guess you would. Life is fucking cruel.

No. It’s not cruel, it is simply unfair. The only thing fair about Life is that it is unfair for everyone. To describe it as cruel would be to imply that you are being singled out.

Maybe I am, Lex responded cynically.

The old man watched Lex trying to balance himself against the intoxication. Then now is the time to change your life, isn’t it? he hissed with a grin and an enthralled clap of his hands.

Physician heal thyself! You have all this wisdom but look what it’s done for you. So if failure is inevitable because it is due to us equally, then what’s the bloody point? Lex snarled back, feeling patronized by the elder’s poignant philosophies.

Amusement, for the most part, he replied mischievously as he stood, though some say it is what we do with our time, but I say that if we don’t enjoy ourselves in what we do then there is simply no point in doing anything at all.

I’m not amused.

Clearly. But enjoyment comes in many forms: satisfaction, suffering, gratification, honor, decency, domination, destruction, martyrdom… just to name a few. Would you like to know your particularly amusing purpose? the old man asked, stepping ominously closer.

Lex examined him. He was shorter than himself and quite old, perhaps in his late seventies. His face and hands were dirty, his hair grey and tangled, and his clothing barely stitched together at the seams. Yet, there was something in his eyes, something captivating as they sparkled with confidence and wisdom. They held a relative familiarity.

I— well, that is… Lex stammered, unsure what to make of this sudden turn, what makes you think you know me to say?

"Because I know you better than you know yourself… Lex." The old man smiled, baring stained yellow teeth as he reached his hand out to Lex.

"Who are you? How do you know me?"

I know you as I can only know myself.

What—? Lex stumbled and fell over backwards. He sat upright, staring at the stranger while making a drunken conclusion, You’re crazy. That makes sense.

I am you! he laughed as his face began to contort beneath the skin. His entire body bubbled and drained of color as a new shape emerged: it was tall and scrawny with a beastly curvature in its legs. His long, straggly black hair and hard grey skin gleamed against the moonlight peeking through the clouds. His ears were pointed and his yellow eyes sharp. His arms were long and taut, and his narrow torso balanced upon the unusual legs with large, blackened feet. He bowed reverently as he made his introduction. Lo, I am Mephisto.

Mephisto’s facial features were similar to Lex; only the remainder was unfamiliar. Lex froze as he abruptly realized that the anatomical anomalies of this abomination blatantly detailed that it was not human. While staring incredulously at the monstrous sight before him, he wondered if he was hallucinating or maybe just dreaming. He considered it for a moment and then forgot his disbelief as he felt the cold, wet grass between his fingers. He was in awe at the transformation of the old man into something akin to a devil which stood revealed to him now.

Mephisto?

I could go by Lex, or Alex, or even Alexander… but those were already used. I considered Zander but I just don’t think it captures my personality.

"How—?" Lex stammered.

Mephisto smiled as he extended his hand again. Vi Veri Universum Vivus Vici!

Fear overwhelmed Lex as he stared at the blackened hand with thin, pointy fingers. He carefully stood, never removing his gaze from the creature towering curiously over him. His heart was pounding faster than it could effectively pump as Lex grew pale and fell flat to the ground again. His eyes rolled back while his strength left

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