Witches vs. Nazis Chapter 1

Like it says on the tin: chapter one of Witches vs. Nazis, which is my current project. It’s awesome. I’m awesome. The witches are the good guys. And, yeah, I’m saying that the Patriarchy is demonic. I’m comfortable with that!

Witches vs. Nazis
by Kit Bradley
All rights reserved 2018

Chapter One

I.

Christmas Eve in the National Socialist Empire of America: a great festival where the twisted cross rose above the altar of the Kristr. In Yton, one of the greatest cities of the NSEA, the Orville Wright Stadium was full of blond, blue-eyed, pale faces in the stands, while the Untermenschen fought for their amusement. There were thirty thousand packed into the stands with the white and red decorations of Christmastime everywhere. The lights were bright on the dome overhead, buried deep in the arco. Typically, most of the seats would be regular people – middle class, save for a few seats high up – but today it was all high-ranking Nazis with their families.

At the head of the stadium was the Leader’s Box. The Leader wasn’t in Yton, then, but the Imperial Leader Hans Stuckardt sat in his place with his tiny, pale, and lovely wife beside him. He barely paid attention to the games. Standing behind Stuckardt was a figure no one acknowledged, a shadow in a shadow, wearing a black SS uniform with no insignia of rank. Probably Heydrich, possibly Himmler, both of whom had been dragged up from Hell – their eyes full of maggots, their brains full of spiders, and the worms wriggling under their dead skins – when the Demon King had settled on Nazism to rule over the humans in this part of the world. While the humans could, and did, fine on their own in most things, sometimes the Demon King needed to speak with its own voice, to remind the mortals of the true rulers of this world.

Were that not enough, there were the drones. Most of them were small enough to ignore, but sometimes the light struck their lenses, turning them scarlet, as a reminder that the Demon King saw much, heard much, and that the AIs in Cincinnati, New Orleans, New York, and a hundred other blasted cities tirelessly worked their an electronic oracle: social network analysis. Demons loved robots, that was true, and computers, and weapons, and tolerated humans to live only to make more of them and make them better.

Let them have their celebrations, their fantasies of sovereignty, so long as they obeyed, and produced, according to the desires of the Demon King.

One of the favorites, fighting that day, was Lilith 45385-J/S-F-29385. “Lilith” had been added because the fans liked it when their fighting slaves had names.

Today, her armor had two major sponsors – on her breastplate and backplate made not of steel but a graphene composite that was next to indestructible – and half a dozen lesser sponsors written on her sleeves and thighs. The main sponsors were Jansen & Gambol’s Organsimia (“Addiction-free Pain Relief!”) and Connext (“Friends, God, Work – Get Connext!”). One of the minor sponsors had printed on the ass of her armor Condom Nation (“The Sexy Armor”). Lilith did not find the placement of the ad funny, not at all.

A person in her line of work well knew Organsimia, and it was definitely habit forming, and though she knew she had a Connext account, it was controlled by the Ministry of Entertainment. She was not supposed to be able to read, but she could because she was not a born slave, and knew that Entertainment’s characterization of her was as a bubble-headed sexpot. She had some coaching for the role, of course, since the services of her body had been available for rent since she was twelve. While it was illegal, of course, for Aryans to breed with subhumans, and it was gauche to be discovered doing such a thing, so long as precautions against pregnancy were taken Nazis were free to fuck their slaves. It was considered “assisted masturbation” and was a shameful open secret of the whole Empire. To Lilith, it was just forced prostitution, and she knew it was a species of rape.

Just as well they used protection. Lilith has no desire to be put with the get of an Aryan. Such a baby would be dead before it got to term, even if she died along with it. There were some things past bearing, and she had no great love of her life.

She came out – steel breast- and backplate, a half-helm, armored arms and thighs, and greaves and half-gauntlets. Today, she was armed with a spear and a long, curved dagger of exceptional keenness. Today, she was going to fight a mutie sport.

Most mutants were pathetic, but a few were not. A few, bred in the toxic stew of radiation and escaped biotech from the Past World, were monstrosities, prodigies called sports. (This over-and-above the bioengineered species that had escaped with the Rupture – sometimes called the Rapture by those overfond of Old Time Religion, often the Demonization – or what the demons brought with them from Hell that seemed to survive just fine in the new world.)

Today, a sport. She had studied the video of its capture, she had studied it as several slaves tried to kill it with spears – how it had, instead, killed them. She knew as much as anyone could know of such a beast.

And whatever corruption existed in the Empire – and it was sick to the bone – the Kristr Games were never rigged, not that she had ever heard. Other games were rife with works, but for the Kristr Games, never. Or, at least, not yet. So, while everyone hoped she lived – except a few rabid anti-fans – well, she was already old for a fighting slave.

The mutie that came into the light of day was a nightmare given form. It was some kind of crocodile, she knew, but as large as a Jersey bull. It didn’t have eyes but eye clusters, and three of them, at that, though four eyes were main, and at least as large as baseballs. It was armored, with two tails sporting barbs as long as short swords, and it’s long head had teeth that were the size of some daggers, and a tongue with a disgusting barbed mouth that could grip like a lamprey. To boot, she knew it was radioactive as fuck.

The next day, Christmas Day, was her birthday. She would be twenty-three.

II.

Lilith had been born Judith Kasowitz. People born into slavery never had names, unless given by their owners, but Judith had been born in a hidden community along the Scioto River about thirty clicks above the Ohio. Cut by rivers and streams, the area was hilly, but it was profoundly underdeveloped. Before the Demonization, nearly all industry and service sector activity had left the area – a few small service towns for the robots that operate what farms, mills, mines, and factories that remained but damned few of them, too. Lilith had been taught that the humans just before the Demonization were struggling to put their environment right after centuries of misuse, so large swaths of land were protected in ways that made them economically marginal and functionally depopulated. And after the Demonization, when human technology had taken two large steps backward due to the chaos and, then, restrictions of the Demon King, well, the Nazi Empire didn’t have either the permission or need to reclaim the fallow lands between the surviving cities. So long as their arcologies continued to run, and the automated factories in orbit kept chopping up the asteroids for raw materials, the wilds were more or less ignored, especially factoring in the demon’s monopoly on all air and space travel – including satellites. The Nazis got no aerial surveillance from the demons and were allowed no aircraft, either. Not even the Leader. Even the Leader had to travel by rail.

This state of affairs allowed fairly stable communities of Nazi-branded “subhumans” – the Untermenschen – to form. Where Lilith had been born, there were about a hundred and fifty families, perhaps six hundred people. It was called with no irony River Bend, which was nestled in a U created by the Scioto, surrounded by hills populated with stately trees – near the crest rock oak, with walnut and maple further down, with the lowlands cleared for horticulture. Most of the buildings were either made of rough laid stones covered with stucco with tile rooftops, or old Quonset huts made from Gone World plastics that would last a thousand years. The big buildings were Quonset huts – the galley, meeting place, church – set around a large commons area.

Lilith, when she had been Judith, had been training as a hunter. They kept their footprint small at River Bend, so there were no farms, but the area was rich in game. The Gone World humans went through a phase where enough people addressed the physical differences between men and women through germline manipulation the women were, generally, taller than the men, though with lighter builds, and otherwise equally athletic. This was still true in the Nazi-described slave races, though it had been bred out of the “Aryan races.” (And, indeed, that men and women in the “slave races” were equally strong, physically, was bruited about as proof of the inherent “animality” of the “subhumans.” But it made slave women sought after warrior slaves. More than one Nazi was aroused by the physical strength of Untermenschen women and their dominance over them. This Lilith knew very well.) Even as a child, it was clear that Lilith had an athletic turn, and she would be more suited as a hunter than, say, a gardener or even a lumberer. She was, from the very beginning, a hunter.

III.

Most slaves in North America were black, as was this one, a man about thirty years of age – slaves had no idea of their proper age, and if they chanced to do factory work in the guts of an arco, they might have no proper sense of day and night, much less the passage of seasons – and emaciated. The man shirtless, though he had a torn blanket, he used as a cloak, and his overalls were muddy and torn. There were worn work boots on his feet. He had up his hands, his blanket fanning behind him, to show them he had no weapons. Judith remembered counting his ribs, because they were all visible, and wondered if her joints looked the same under her flesh. Other than that, the escapee was haunted, terrified that the Benders were going to give him over to the Nazis, twitchy, terrified, but also starved, which is why he approached their hunting camp.

Ezra saw him first. Ezra was twelve to Judith’s ten, and notionally “in charge.” He was just old enough to be issued a weapon – a 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun. Their duties in camp were to prepare the venison for transport, including scraping and prepping the skins, and when they were done with that to check the rabbit traps. It was bloody work, but both had done it enough to be past the point of being sickened by it – it was just a messy, necessary job, and the children spent as much time in horseplay as they did at the job. In a year, Ezra would become a man and more responsibility would be expected, but just then they were both regarded as children, and they weren’t pushed too hard.

In all, River Bend was a grand place to grow up.

But when Ezra saw the escapee, he got serious, pointed, and Judith turned serious, too. Not precisely frightened, but on the edge of it. Wary. She was wary.

Ezra got his shotgun, cracked it open, put in a couple of shells.

The escapee held up his hands. He said, “I don’t mean nothing but good, I don’t, I just smelled what you’ve got cooking.”

A haunch on a spit turned slowly. It had a little electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery, and the children ignored it save to baste it now and then and keep the fire going right.

Ezra said, “Don’t come no closer, amigo.” He whispered to Judith, “What’re to do?”

Judith whispered back, “We take in them that get past the Nazis, don’t we?” More loudly, she said, “Don’t mind Erza too much. Why don’t you sit by the fire? It’s chill out.” She went to the bucket of water they used to wash in, crouched, rinsed her hands and forearms until they were passing clean, and dried them on a chamois hanging from a stick. She got a knife from the leather bundle where they kept their tools – a clean one – and the escapee twitched, almost started to run.

She froze, kept her eyes on the escapee. She said, “It’s fine, it’s fine, you see. I’m going to slice some venison for you, that’s all, you look hungry as a winter wolf.”

Ezra lowered his weapon. It suddenly felt absurd. This was not a man to be feared but pitied. Not threatened, but helped. While River Bend was a couple generations past its beginning, hadn’t it been started by escaped slaves? By Jews and Muslims and blacks and queers? Every child in River Bend learned that the slaves were their family.

Still, he didn’t take the shells from the breach. He shouldered the gun. “You want a tortilla? We’ve got some, too, in the cooler.”

The escapee was all but drooling, and Judith thought she could hear the churning growl of his stomach. She cut a long, thin slice of venison, held it out on the tip of her knife.

The escapee lunged to it, caught himself at the last second, grabbed the meat off the knife’s tip, and started eating it in huge bites.

Judith: “Better get a tortilla or two. And them walnuts.” They always had walnuts.

Ezra did. Judith cut another piece of meat, put it on the tortilla, and handed it to the escapee – who ripped into it.

Ezra: “You figure you can find the others?”

Judith: “Yep.”

“Well, get to it. I’ll keep the company, you fetch the others.”

“Aye.” I understand and will do as you say. Nazis never said “aye.” It was strictly a word of the Untermenschen.

IV.

Judith found the hunting party about three miles from the base camp. They’d already had luck and were carrying a couple of deer. Their leader was Paul Rickson, a light-skinned black man with close-cut hair and a few days growth of beard. Since their firearms were used for defense – the light footprint principle: guns were loud, the compressed air crossbow rifles were quiet and nearly as good for the hunt – Paulie held a crossbow on his shoulder.

“What’s going on, Apple Pie?” Paul said as Judith ran up.

“Ezra’s at the camp sitting on a… a man. An escapee. He’s fine. We’re feeding him. I most think the newcomer’s still putting on. He’s nothing but skin and bones.”

“You both okay?”

Judith made a wry face that said, Clearly or I wouldn’t be so calm.

Paul: “Say the words, Judith.”

“Aye, sir,” she said with a sigh, not knowing why people were always telling her that like they didn’t know what she meant with a look or gesture. They did understand, and if they didn’t, she knew they didn’t, and would open her mouth. “We’re both fine. He couldn’t win an arm wrestling match with a skeeter, this one. Skin and bones. Never seen no one that thin. He’s got sores on his mouth, too, so I think he’s got something, and his hands. Purplish.”

That made Paul look worried, until Farley Haversham said, “It’s likely the scurvy, Paul. How are his clothes, Judy?”

Judith said, “They’re cloth, and a mess, torn up and all, and dirty.”

Paul: “I’ll go ahead. You fellas come fast as you’re able.”

They would be hesitant to let the meat aside. Hunting was the primary source of protein for River Bend, though the community was nearing the size where they would have to split or risk hunting the area clean, and they already they had a few long winters where game was scarce, so food was scarce. Still, ranching or farming would increase their footprint… it was a growing dilemma, and they knew the solution but feared to do to it because splitting would break apart families, and the harder path was limiting live births, which no one wanted to do. They would keep the meat if they could.

Paul preceded Judith back to the camp. Right outside of it, he handed her his air crossbow and drew his pistol. It was a six-shooter, black powder, camp made. It was a joke compared to the Delameter Freedom Fighter Assault Laser or the HK&G LightLance A-4 that were the standard war rifles of the Imperial armies and the SS, but the rural militias didn’t have much better and were usually unmotivated. Paul kept his pistol in the hollow of his left shoulder and didn’t cock the hammer back.

The two of them observed the escapee talking with Ezra. The escapee had finished eating, sitting at the fire with a cup of water, looking nervous. Ezra had returned to scraping the deer hides, though his shotgun was close at hand.

Judith looked fiercely at the escapee, with total concentration. She didn’t want to just be a hunter, but a ranger – responsible not only scouting but making contact with the outside world. She tried to strip back the layers of the escapee’s mind with her eyes, she wanted to know what had happened to him. She saw the identification tattoo on the inside of his arm – she could not make out most of it, but the last four letters were 9284 – and knew there would also be a chip. In the hills, the chips had a limited range, she knew this. He was thin, which was to be expected, and had marks around his mouth, but also his wrists that she could see – a dark purple blotchiness, like hundreds of tiny bruises. When he spread his hands for the fire, she saw callouses and scars.

Paulie started to go forward, saw the intensity of Judith’s concentration, smiled a bit. “Stay here. Cover me.”

She lifted the pneumatic crossbow, sighted in, with that same intensity. Paul had no doubt she would take the shot if she thought the escapee was a threat. He holstered his pistol.

Paul walked into the camp, hands out from his sides, showing empty palms. The escapee started.

Paul: “Easy on. I’m with the hunting party.”

The escapee looked around. “Where’s the girl?”

“She’s with the rest of the hunting party. She’s fine.”

Ezra: “Judith is always fine.”

The escapee nodded.

Paul crouched next to the fire. He was slender – they all were – and squatted with practiced ease. “What’s your name?”

“I ain’t got a name,” the escapee said.

Paul almost whispered, “I’m not going to ask you your designation, man. Out here, we’ve all got names. Mine’s Paul. The whipcrack over there is Ezra. The girl is Judith.”

“You’re Hebrews, then?”

“Some of us, yeah. Some of us are also Muslims, and more than a fair shake Christians.”

“What’s you?”

“Not much at all, really.”

Which was also true of Judith. Her family wasn’t observant, though she thought herself Jewish and the Nazis definitely considered her Jewish, she wasn’t religious.

The escapee snorted. “Demons all over and you ain’t got God?”

Paul half-shrugged. “Far as I see, the demons aren’t religious. The might want us to be religious, but, for a man such as myself, that counts against religion.”

The escapee looked confused.

Paul screwed up his face, thought a moment. “If demons want us to do something, to have religious faith, that makes it suspicious to my mind. I’ve had this conversation out a hundred times, amigo, and I find it suspicious that demons seem to support religion and do it so non-specifically. It’s like they want us to believe in something that will come in and save us – something that won’t ever happen.”

This was news to Judith. She knew he wasn’t religious, but she was well below the age where it was something they discussed. She knew her mother believed he would be a ranger if he weren’t so “stubborn,” and now Judith knew what that meant. Paul did not, in general, to her, seem stubborn at all, but communities of faith had a lot of power in River Bend, though the escapee picked up on something that Judith was thinking.

He said, “The Nazis go after religions all the time.”

“I do not confuse what the Nazis do with what the demons do. I know that in other places, they support Islam, Hinduism, even Buddhism with the same fervor that they seem to support their twisted, fucked-up version of Christianity and its ugly step-son Irminism down the way.”

“How you know that?”

“Because I have read books,” Paul said.

Judith was uncertain about the escapee, like how he seemed so interested in discussing theology with Paul, despite being so jumpy. It didn’t add up in her mind, but she was a child and could not say how it failed to sum.

The escapee, though, didn’t continue the line of questioning. He looked into the fire. He said, “You asked me my name? How’s a person choose?”

“Mostly, we don’t. We are given our names by our parents.”

A whisper: “Never knew mine.” He was rigid with tension. The question of a name was a burden to him.

“I know.” It was standard Nazi practice to separate slaves from their parents at the moment of their birth, putting them to be raised in robotic creches. “If you can’t think of one, I can give you something. If you want.”

The escapee considered that, and it seemed some tension went out of him. “Okay,” he said.

“Tafari,” Paul said. “It’s the birth name of an African king in a country called Ethiopia.”

The escapee, Tafari, furrowed his brow. “I don’t know nothing about any of that.”

“If you want, you can learn. We have some books on African history.”

“I can’t read!”

“You can learn if you want, but we read aloud from books often. Stories and such we want to share with everyone. You’ll hear them if you want to.”

Tafari didn’t know what to say. He looked bewildered, even confused.

By then, the others had caught up. She didn’t lower the crossbow until Farley told her to stand down.

V.

Tafari was with them three days when the SS-Sonderkommando “Buckeye” hit the camp. They struck from the north and south, underwater, the Nazi battle armor being fully amphibious. They just swam up the Scioto River, past the guards and lines and all their preparation meant nothing. They rose up out of the water in the small hours of the morning, snipers two and three miles away on distant hilltops taking the first kills with the HK&C Snapdragon sniper lasers. The beams were invisible and silent, but there was a crack as their skulls exploded, and a puff of purple light spraying out the far side of the wound, and the near headless bodies fell.

People, as such, didn’t start to rouse themselves until the commandos began breaking down doors. Anyone who resisted was shot with the Delameter Freedom Fighter assault lasers. At night, green bursts were visible, a bright flash where they hit – the green so brilliant it turned white – and steaming guts splattering everywhere.

Judith woke up to screams.

Her mother was there, Sarah. To Judith, Sarah was everything. She was a ranger, so often away, but she was tall and lovely – save for the long scar that had made her blind in one eye – and Judith worshiped the ground on which Sarah walked.

Sarah said, softly, as the screams mounted, “Listen to me, Judith. Look at me with both eyes.”

Judith was silent, she looked at her mother. She ignored her little bedroom, the books by her table, the lamp cold at her bedside, the moonlight coming through the window save how it lit up her mother’s face. Sarah was grim and certain.

“Yes, mama,” Judith whispered.

“You’ll go to the cave I showed you. You remember.”

Judith nodded.

“You may not make it there. Do you understand? The Nazis are here, and you may not make it.”

Judith nodded.

“The most important thing is to live, Judith. It is the most important thing of all. You must first survive, then evade, then resist, then escape. Remember! Survive, evade, resist, escape. Turn all your wits, your very soul, to survival. On survival everything else depends. If I can, I will join you.”

Judith nodded, knowing that Sarah would not be joining her. Already, Sarah was raising her pistol – but everyone knew that the Nazi body armor was nearly invulnerable to standard gunfire, that you could shoot at it all day with gunpowder weapons and do little more than scratch its surface coating.

“I will buy you such time as I can,” Sarah said. “Now, take your bag and run, Judith!”

VI.

Judith took her go bag, slipped out the window, as her mother left through the front door. She fixed what she remembered of Tafari in her mind. She thought of him, everything about him, over and over and over. She remembered the numbers 9284. She mouthed them, again and again, over and over.

Sarah was dead in seconds, torn apart by emerald green hellfire. Judith did not see her mother die.

Less than an hour later, the SS-Sonderkommandos caught Judith. They almost killed her on the spot. There was no precise cut off age for who would live and who would die, but Judith was a tall girl and looked older than she was to Nazi eyes (who had bred the tallness out of Aryan women, after all). It was a near thing, but instead of cutting her apart with the Delameters, she was hit with the underslung shotgun launcher firing Elephant Arms Buzzshock rounds – cracking her ribs and then pulsing her with electric shocks for the next ten minutes. Even after cuffing her, they didn’t bother taking off the Buzzshock. If she died, she died.

She didn’t. She passed out, and when she came to, she was in a boat on the Scioto River. Through a small, closed hatch, she could see River Bend on fire. Orange light glittered off the water, and the smoke rose in internally lit worls, surrounded by a halo of flames. At the front of the boat, there were poles with heads on them. Their eyes were orange in the firelight, and it seemed to Judith that they had a burning deep inside their skulls. One of them belonged to Sarah.

Judith screamed.

VII.

The mutie croc roared, then charged.

The charge was from too far out, though, and not only did Lilith roll aside at the last moment, she was able to rake the tip of her spear across a cluster of eyes. They popped like grapes. A couple of drops blood splattered against Lilith’s cheek and started to itch, then burn, but she could ignore it. She did not think of the radioactivity. Hopefully, this would be done before that started affecting her performance.

The crowd roared, the mutie roared, a deafening, all-encompassing sound. Lilith, in the midst of the fight, didn’t register the sound. She was focused on her enemy, the parts of her environment that mattered, not the cheers or boos of the crowd.

This time, the croc swung around more slowly, approached more cautiously. She knew it was hungry. If wounded, most wild animals ran away, and the mutie croc was an animal. It took cruelty and starvation to amp up their aggression to the point where animals would fight to the death.

Its tail lashed, the barbs driving down, and Lilith darted out of the way. It was fast and strong, but the damn thing’s tail was almost thirty feet away from its head – she saw the tail coming with enough time to dodge.

The tongue was a bigger problem. The lamprey-like tip of it. It could shoot out fast, and grip anything, and draw it into the croc’s mouth. She had come up with a plan, but it was a little batshit crazy, but if it didn’t work she would become croc food, anyway, and it had to do with that tongue and the quality of her armor.

The graphene composition was very, very strong. The croc couldn’t crack it with its jaws. When it killed the other slaves, it would shake them around until the whiplash broke their neck, or put a big foot on their chest and tear off their arms, legs, head. She had studied the videos with her particular, intense focus, often absently making jokes while doing it.

Lilith had also noticed that the mutie croc never learned. It went through the same things over and over. The blind charge from too far out, the thrashing of its tail, then the sting of its lamprey-like tongue.

She stood her ground, held the spear close to its head, and the tongue snapped out, gripped the front of her armor and snapped her in. She went loose for that part. Then she bit down on her mouthpiece as the croc bit down on her. This was the vital moment. If something went wrong, she would die, probably screaming.

There was a sense of pressure in her midsection, of a terrible power, and grinding of teeth, the fucking roar of the crowd that just wanted to see blood and didn’t care who died for it. The head of the croc was about eighteen inches across where it bit her, one of the teeth at her waistline – there was a sharp pain, there, but she ignored it, thinking the wound shallow because the jaws of the monster were stopped by her armor – and her arms were free. That was the vital thing.

She had but a second or two before the croc started shaking its immense head, but a second could be a long time in a fight.

She gripped the lip of the croc with her free hand and jabbed at the biggest of the eyes she could see. At the same time, she knew that the barbed tail was coming at her head. Her spear entered the biggest eye of the croc at the same moment the barb hit the ridge of her morion.

Her head was suddenly ringing. She didn’t hear the roar of the croc, she didn’t hear the roar of the crowd. She did have a sense of floating as the croc tossed her away, absently, and of hitting the sandy floor of the arena. She had blood in her eyes. The croc’s barb had hit her helmet so hard the ridge of it had cut her above the eye. Which also accounted for the ringing in her head.

She bit her mouthpiece, again, and stood the fuck up. She remembered very well her mother’s words: the most important thing is to live. She had business to attend, and no fucking mutie fucking croc was going to stop her, not some mindless fucking brute dragged out of some southern swamp. She denied that with all her heart and guts and mind and muscle.

She saw the mutie croc. The spear was still in its eye socket, blood gushed down its face. It was having trouble seeing – she had no idea how many of those eyes it needed, or how many worked, but it seemed to have trouble focusing on her. She grabbed her dagger and drew it at the same moment the lamprey tongue lashed out, again.

With a beautiful draw cut, she cut off the tongue. The tip of it was still stuck to her armor, and blood sprayed out at her, right into her face. She made a cry – she hated doing that, she hated to acknowledge pain in front of Nazis – and she felt a sudden inch, then a fiery burn where the blood touched her skin, ran down her neck, under her armor.

The croc’s roar was louder than her cry. The roar of the crowd was louder, still.

The croc’s head thrashed, and ignoring the pain – her blood was hot from the fight, so this wasn’t as hard as one might imagine – she was able to trap the spear’s haft between her right arm and her body, holding it with her left hand as the croc ripped back it’s head, freeing the spear tip. She had to drop the dagger, though, to do it.

Lilith backed away quickly. She was in new territory. No one in the videos had managed to hurt the croc so much, not even close. Blood poured from both sides of its face – the first cut with a dribble, the thrust to the big eye a stream. Blood spurted from its severed tongue in a spray.

The croc charged, bloody mouth open. Not quite so quick, now, no. Wounded and weak and slow.

Lilith set her spear in the sand, dropped its head, and let the mutie impale itself. The carbon shaft of the spear bent and bent and bent. If it broke, Lilith didn’t know what she’d do. It didn’t. There was a pop as it straightened itself out, driving the head into the skull of the mutie, and the mutie came to a full stop propped up on the spear. Then it fell over to one side.

She walked over and took her dagger from the sand. The croc thrashed, cried out, mewling.

Imperial Leader Stuckardt roused himself from a conversation. He had not paid particular attention to the fight. He said, and his voice was amplified, “Finish it, slave Lilith.”

He returned to his conversation.

Lilith drove the dagger into the eye of the mutie croc. Her blood was now cold. The chemical burns of the mutie’s blood pained her. Her ribs pained her. Her lower back was agony, her shoulders hurt, her head was pounding. She drove in the blade, the fucked up blood burning her hands like lye, the edge grinding against bone. She twisted it until she heard another pop, and the croc went still.

The crowd cheered. They called her name, they stamped their feet, they went wild. She begged her mother’s forgiveness because she liked it.

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