Something I Don't Already Know
”Why is it that every time these twin Wockies organize a parade, we’re the ones sent to clean after it?”
“Shut up and get to work, Cornelius,” Carmichael glared at the Werelupe, pulling off the latex gloves from her fingers. The ghost Xweetok groaned, tying her hair in a bun. Her translucent face was stained with flaked skin and red spots, her Howie coat unbuttoned and in a state of disarray. Tyrannian dust passed by them, hurting the Werelupe’s eyes. “I’d like to get back to my lab before Tuesday, and you’re not going to stop me from finishing my particle accelerator. I have ghost molecules to study.”
The Werelupe rolled his eyes, entering his tent. He was sure he heard a bomb detonate in the battlefield as he tended to one of the zombies, stitching its arm back. The zombie Scorchio continuously pulled his stump away, refusing the nurse’s care. “Look, I can leave you armless and running amok the wild, or I can give you back your limb.” Blunt glared at the thing. “I know plenty of Werelupes who’d be more interested in it than you are.”
The zombie moaned in protest, but gave in without much fight. Cornelius Blunt went on to the rest of the tent, swords clanging and axes flailing in the distance.
When the night arrived, the two colleagues were sent back to the medic camp a good distance away from the field, where all the healers from every faction gathered to discuss the day over hot coffee and gravy. Inter-faction friendships were easily formed in the medics’ camp, as most of the doctors were only hired to the cause and therefore didn’t care much for the skirmish itself. Carmichael found herself, as she usually did, in the presence of the Brutes’ doctor Robert, an old camouflage Ogrin with a tendency towards theatrics, but also talking with the Seekers’ medic, a bright minded physician by the name of Sandra Irwin.
“I don’t quite adhere to Professor Lambert’s anti-war stance,” the young brown Aisha said, her face contemplative, her stance thought-provoking. “One can’t have life without death, one can’t have happiness without sadness, and one can’t have eternal peace. Someday, someone must challenge the status quo to remind us why we have it to begin with.”
Carmichael chuckled. “Tell us something we don’t already know.”
Robert laughed, heartily, toasting the ghost with his cup of grog. “The Seekers aren’t up to your oeuvre, my dear,” he told the young Aisha. “It’s a shame the Brutes aren’t as meditative about their ideology; otherwise, I might recruit you to entertain the folk with conversations on war.”
Irwin wrinkled her nose, giggling. “No offense, but even if they were capable, I wouldn’t go to the Brutes for that sort of small talk. The Sway, maybe. Or perhaps the Awakened. The Awakened fascinate me to no end,” she turned to Carmichael, sipping her coffee. “How’s working with them? Do they talk as much as they groan?”
The ghost downed her grog. “Well, there’s an interesting fact about that. In all actuality, zombies groan because--”
“Catherine,” Carmichael looked to the opening of the tent. A Werelupe arrived, his lab coat somewhat ripped, glaring at her. “Oppo sent us a letter. It’s urgent.”
Carmichael looked to her friends, apologizing before rolling her eyes and leaving the tent. “What is it now?” she demanded of the nurse, her hands in her pockets. “Can’t you leave me alone for an hour? I already suffer enough, spending five days with you.”
The sun was setting in Tyrannia, the Obelisk illuminating the various tents put up around it. Catherine Carmichael and Cornelius Blunt entered the Awakened tents, passing by the zombies and ghosts getting ready for the next battle. “Carmichael,” Cornelius read out, throwing away the envelope of the letter, “It has come to the Sanatorium’s attention that several monster hunters have joined this months’ skirmish within two of the factions involved. One of them, the Seekers, has been confirmed safe by Professor Lambert--”
“How does that senile Korbat know the Seekers are safe?” Carmichael questioned.
Cornelius shrugged. “I heard that Oppo’s higher up, Kal Xadum, invites Lambert to tea every once and a while.” Carmichael glared at him. “Hey, I’m a nurse. I listen to gossip every now and then.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “Go on.”
“The second generational hunters are the brothers Kell and Corbin. They not only plan to eliminate you and Blunt, they will attempt to use you both to locate the Sanatorium. I suggest you burn this letter immediately after reading it, and find shelter somewhere other than your normal resting spot,” Cornelius stopped for a moment, before turning the letter. “There’s an illustration of the two hunters. Being captured is not an option.”
“Obviously,” Carmichael snatched the letter from him, examining the illustration. “As if being in this war zone isn’t bad enough.”
The Werelupe shrugged. “I’ll tell Lanie and Lillie about Kell and Corbin,” he said, escaping out of the tent. “I guess you’re burning the letter?”
Carmichael nodded. The tent lights dimmed, the zombies and ghosts inside frolicking sleeplessly. ***
While most of the other factions were resting in their tents, the Awakened was enjoying a late night celebration.
It was a tradition in these skirmishes that while their opponents were sleeping, the Awakened would attempt to wake everybody up with wild parties, scares, and various noises in the night. The Werelupes would go howling at the moon (whether it was full or not,) ghosts singing old nursery rhymes in quartets, zombies dancing just outside the battlefield. One would wonder why they didn’t invade the Obelisk or attack everyone while they were sleeping, but at that point the undead were in laid back mode, occasionally inviting the night watch of other factions to their festivities.
The only people who weren’t irritated/enjoying the revelries were the medics, who kept in the neutral zone near the Giant Omelette. While most of the Sway and Brute medics were sleeping, a sizeable number of the Seekers and Awakened were still up, either studying or conversing with each other. Carmichael and Irwin were of the latter category, discussing various topics ranging from post-mortem neurology to classical music to the inevitability of death.
“I’ve always heard that ghosts can cross the other side, if they want to,” Irwin started, looking at Carmichael. The Aisha was in a white shirt and a pair of slacks, sitting by a bonfire. “Why don’t you?”
Carmichael poked the fire with a stick, shrugging. “It wouldn’t be interesting,” she replied. “I like it here, anyway. I enjoy being a ghost. I don’t know if I want to move on.”
“Now, don’t lie to me. Surely something’s keeping you here.”
The ghost shook her head, standing back. “I suppose you could argue I’m fuelled by my past failures,” she said. “I was assigned to a project in an attempt to create life from death. It was a time long before Neovia was ruined by Hissi Oil, and I was the only one of my colleagues who suggested using ghosts and zombies and mysticism to our advantage. They called me mad. I didn’t quite care.”
Irwin glared at her, arms folded over chest, grinning. “You are. Just a little bit, but you are.” The Aisha looked at her fingers. “Though I suppose it’s only in our nature to rebel against death.”
Carmichael laughed. “Tell me something I don’t already know.”
The two newly formed companions waited out in the stillness of the night, before Irwin stood up, declaring: “It’s getting quite late. I should get going.” She stood up, drawing away from the fire towards the tents. Before leaving, she looked over her shoulders. “No rest for the wicked, I’m guessing?”
“None at all.”
The Seeker chuckled, walking away from the scene. Carmichael watched her for a little while, pulling out the letter in her pocket. She threw the sheet of paper into the fire. It crumbled, melted away, red ghosts fleeing into the stars. She chose to depart, then, leaving the fire open for anyone who needed it, turning to her tent.
She was just about to enter it when she realized that Cornelius’, only a few tents away from her, still had its lamp on. Hoping to irritate him with her presence, Carmichael sneaked towards the ragged shelter, pulling away the flaps. “And what are we up to tonight?” she asked, approaching the Werelupe. “I expect the thought of being chased isn’t making you soil your--”
There was a shock.
Carmichael dropped to the ground, watching the shadows passing over her form. Cornelius appeared, blearily, in her vision, tied down, mouth bound, a Wocky holding him down. And then it all went black. ***
You could not call the brothers anything less than effective.
This was the only thought that rushed through Carmichael’s head as she woke up from her stupor, trapped in a cage made of electric bars. “Well, one of you lot is more intelligent than they look,” she said, knowing well enough that a ghost couldn’t leave charged confines without being badly distorted on a molecular level. A Wocky stood in front of her, his arms crossed, wearing a metal armor. “Judging by your choice of clothing and hair, I suppose it’s the Ogrin one.”
Kell growled, inwardly. “Shut up.”
Carmichael stood up, brushing the imaginary dust off her lab coat. “It’s Kell, isn’t it?” she greeted, casually. “You must’ve been from a Brute Squad briefing. Tell me, does Commander Flint sketch maps as badly as my colleagues’ say he does? And is it true that all of you keep plushies by your beds for good luck?”
“I told you to--”
“Oh, it’s no good. Other than shocking me, you really can’t do much to convince me that I should listen to you,” she shrugged. “Perhaps I would, if you told me something intriguing. But that’s a rarity. Live as long as I have, and every single word simply becomes garbage.”
Kell turned a shade of red, calming himself down. “We have your friend on the other side of this cave, chained up and interrogated by my brother,” he explained. “Now, we’re a reasonable pair. We don’t want any trouble. All you two have to do is tell us who you work for and where, and we’ll let you both go. If, on the other hand, neither of you do…” he went to a panel in front of the contraption, pulling a lever. A current ran through Carmichael, causing her to flinch and flicker out of existence. Despite the excruciating pain, she didn’t dare scream. “Let’s say that will be less than a quarter of your pain.”
The current stopped. Carmichael only sat there, suddenly fearing for the worst.
Cornelius Blunt was arguably in the same mess.
“Look, I don’t want to hurt you or your kind. Both me and my brother aren’t against what your bosses are doing!” The strange Ogrin said, dressed in a suit and tie. Blunt glared at him from the iron seat he was restrained to, his hands and feet bound in iron chains. “We just want to locate where your bosses are. Is that so hard?”
“You gagged me, dragged me into a secluded cave away from the battlefield, and threaten me and my colleague’s life if I don’t tell you what you want to know,” Cornelius stated, plainly. “I’m sorry if I assume your intentions are anything but kind.”
The Ogrin crunched his eyes at the Werelupe, scowling. He sighed. “Look,” Corbin approached Cornelius, hands tightened. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t want to do this. It’s just that your employer is keeping something from my brother and I that we would very much like to take back.”
“And what is that?”
Corbin paused. He heaved a sigh, once again, pulling out a remote control from his pocket. “I suppose I can’t convince you that easily, can I?” he said. Before pressing the button on the remote control, he mouthed, delicately: “I’m sorry.”***
Their escape would, humorously, hinge on Carmichael’s knowledge of basic science.
“That thing has to be uncomfortable to wear every day, isn’t it?” Carmichael eyed the Wocky’s suit of armor in vague interest, sitting down on the ground. Kell looked at her, arching a brow. “I mean, the clanking metal, the rust, the smell. It has to be such a hassle against the skin.”
Kell huffed. “Coming to small talk? I suppose even ghosts get bored of silence,” he shrugged. “If you’d like to know, it’s not that uncomfortable. I had it padded in the interior with cloth, just to make it more bearable.”
Her eyes widened exponentially. “Is that so?” an intrigued grin flashed across her features. “Well, that would answer some questions.”
The Wocky looked at her. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. I just had a hard time believing someone of your stature would wear something so obscenely masculine.” She said, softly. “It would make sense for the armor to be baby proofed. Certainly you wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
Kell approached the satirical ghost, eyebrows narrowed. “What did you just say?”
“And that’s another thing; you aren’t particularly bright, either.” She leaned in, tilting her head in a sardonic manner. “You think hiding behind something shiny and aluminum would hide the hollowness in that head and the feebleness of your form, but let me be straight with you—it only makes it more obvious.” Her smile was bitterly saccharine. “You can’t even face me without holding me by an electric prison. How pathetic is that?” The young Wocky approached her, and she closed in, her statement now sharper than ever. “You can only barely face a girl.”
It was at that point that the Wocky lashed out, metal hands jumping to take the ghosts’ neck. She grabbed him then, dragging him in. Kell looked at himself, surprised that he’d yet been electrocuted. He looked to the ghost. “How did--”
Carmichael screamed, smashing the Wocky in the head. Kell fell face first to the floor, unconscious. The ghost panted, glaring at the subdued warrior’s armor. “Please let this work.”
She slid the Wocky out of the armor, pushing it just over the clear lines of electricity. It passed through the metal, instantly, descending to the ground. She recalled the experiment her mentors once performed while she was alive, with a Kadoatie and a cage attached to the ground. Electricity. Conductivity. Manipulation.
For the first time in years, she was going to bet everything on an Elementary lesson.
She formed into gas, slipping into the armor. She prepared herself for the familiar shock of distortion as the darkness blanketed her. Nothing. She continued on, until finally she reached the other side, safely away from danger. “Thank you, science,” she said, kicking the suit aside before the Wocky could wake up. “Now. Back to business.”
She turned to the narrow cave, looking down into the darkness like she’d look down a corridor. Rolling up her coat sleeves, she ran down into the darkness, preparing for the worst.
Carmichael eventually found Cornelius Blunt in the farthest end of the cave, chained to a chair. He had a plastic ball stuffed into his mouth, and seemed unconscious at first sight. “Cornelius,” she whispered, jogging towards him. “What are you--”
She stopped. Cornelius shot up to her immediately after, his eyes narrowed in anxiety. A deeply unsettled Corbin emerged from the shadows, pointing a crossbow at the two of them. “How did you get away from Kell?” he asked the ghost. “What did you do to him?”
Carmichael stared at the crossbow, arching a brow. “I can confidently say that I didn’t do anything with him,” she replied. “Physics did, though.”
Corbin looked at the two, suddenly putting his crossbow down, raising his fingers up in frustration. “Look, you two don’t understand,” he said, begging for them to listen. “We’re not here to hurt you. Your employers are holding something back, and we need to see--”
A horrendous noise echoed out in the cave. The Ogrin dropped the crossbow to hold down his ears, to which Carmichael took the chance to attack. She struck the hunter by the side of the face, quickly dispatching him. The Ogrin fell to the floor, out cold. The noise stopped. Carmichael turned to her colleague, frowning. “What was that?”
The Werelupe barely shrugged, before a voice called out in the distance. “And I learnt that from the tribal warriors of Mystery Island,” a familiar voice said.
“Never do that. Ever. Again.”
“Now, now, Dr. Irwin, one must respect war calls. As conspicuous as they are, it highlights many of the attitudes possessed by the soldiers at that time period--”
“Robert? Irwin?” Carmichael called out. A flicker of firelight appeared in the distance, and the aforementioned Aisha and Ogrin faded in, their faces lit by its dim glow. The ghost Xweetok narrowed her brows at them, before laughing. “You little rascals. How did you get here?”
Irwin grinned but didn’t say much. It was Robert, with his hands over the smaller pet’s shoulder, who said: “Sandra here noticed that you two were missing, so she stopped the skirmish to send out a search team for you two. She detected the strange electric current from this cave, and decided to follow it.”
Carmichael stared at the Aisha, smiling. “You’re amazing.”
Sandra only smiled. “Tell me something I don’t already know.”***
While the sunlight did scorch them when the two came out, it was the attention they received that killed them.
Professor Lambert and Lanie and Lillie approached them immediately, along with the medical team from all the factions, asking if they were hurt in any way. Commander Flint, Rasala the Bright and the Duchess were, comparatively, rather indifferent about the matter, and glad that they could continue the skirmish.
Carmichael was immediately hit by the situation at hand. While Cornelius was being held by a stretcher on another carriage, she traveled on a volunteering Uni, staring at the mixed group of factions celebrating the discovery in the once battle weary field. While a good number of the warriors were complaining of the delayed battle, the other portion cheered on the two’s discovery, though it wasn’t clear why.
“My views on war have been challenged, as of late,” Irwin said, her Uni friend riding up to Carmichael. “I used to think it was a necessary burden, something to promote change of a sort by dismissing old pretenses. Merging, advancing by dividing.”
Carmichael looked to her. “And how has that gone for you?”
Irwin grinned. “Well, for one, I was pleasantly surprised on how many warriors were in the search party. And not just from the Awakened,” she looked to her. “The Seekers, more than a few Brutes, half of the Order, some of the Thieves—even the Sway went to look, even if it’s just a few people. And it’s still a war that connected them, of course. It’s still a war that changed things, even if it’s only for a little while. It’s just a war of a different kind.”
The Aisha stared at her, examining her expression. “Let me guess,” she said, “You’re going to ask me to tell you something you don't already know?”
The ghost Xweetok looked away, shrugging. “Actually,” she said, “I didn’t know that.”